Political ecology and integrated landscape approaches: complementarity or unhappy marriage?
Forests play a rapidly changing role in the livelihoods of rural people as they find themselves increasingly embedded in multifunctional landscapes, where trade-offs exist between competing land uses. Integrated landscape approaches (ILAs) are gaining ground to negotiate such trade-offs. Although power imbalances are increasingly acknowledged as a challenge to achieving negotiated outcomes in ILAs, the politics of negotiated landscape governance still remain underexposed in the literature. Based on a review of literature, this paper aims to explore whether and how synergy can be created between two seemingly contradictory approaches towards global challenges affecting landscapes, such as deforestation, biodiversity loss, climate change and food security. Whereas ILAs are based on a rather naïve assumption that landscape actors are on the same page in their determination to address these challenges, critical approaches such as political ecology take power imbalances and unequal access to natural resources as a starting point to analyze landscape dynamics. In this paper, we argue that both approaches are needed for integrated and inclusive landscape governance. Political ecology and critical studies more broadly provide insights into the politics and framing of human-nature interactions as well as the diverging interests, power imbalances and inequalities in resource access and decision-making at landscape level. We explore how these insights can be made functional to the operationalization of ILAs, thus contributing to both theory building and the operationalization of integrated landscape governance.