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TERRANOVA: The New Learning Initiative between Humanities and Science: Mapping Past Environments and Energy Regimes, Rethinking Human Environment Interaction and Designing Land Management Tools for Policy. 

This project aims at improving our diachronic long term understanding of landscape histories and land use strategies in Europe in the Holocene and Anthropocene. Previously identified socio-cultural transitions and the effects of natural forcings will be critically assessed in a new intellectual interdisciplinary arena created by the TERRANOVA project. Regional and continental syntheses will be used to anchor a new generation of landscape and climate change models which include the effects of past human actions and generate scenarios for landscape management and rewilding.

Ultimately this project will contribute to identifying major previous shifts in resource use and energy regimes and provide options for the future transition to a low carbon society. Can we identify a balance between natural and cultural landscapes changing over space and time? Can we establish a natural reference for ‘European landscapes’ to evaluate current and future measures of landscape planning, ecosystem restoration and rewilding? Or are both systems so intertwined that the separation of the human from the natural is complex and scale and time dependant? Some researchers mark the industrial revolution as the start of the Anthropocene, others argue that long ago humans in Europe had a larger influence than natural processes upon the landscape. 

Notwithstanding these differences, there is consensus that the intensity of management and impacts of land management on natural systems today is unprecedented. This leads on to consideration of themes of sustainability and societal impact upon landscapes in the 21st century. 

From this perspective knowledge of past energy regimes and landscape interactions are essential components in understanding the present transition to a low carbon society.

Research objectives

The three main research objectives that contribute to the overall aim of this ITN are:

  1. To reconstruct the deep history of Europe’s cultural landscapes and corresponding changes in coupled human-nature interactions within subsequent human energy regimes and their transitions.
  2. To rethink the outcomes of human environmental interactions over the past three energy regimes on the present-day landscape in Europe, in order to inform future energy transitions from a long-term environmental and social perspective.
  3. To design landscape management strategies,
    i) to provide scientific guidance on threats and opportunities for natural and cultural values of Europe’s landscapes;
    ii) to define criteria for assisted restoration of ecosystems of former (abandoned) agricultural areas;
    iii) to generate future scenarios for cultural landscape change, with integrated landscape, cultural heritage and biodiversity models, to inform current planning initiatives, e.g. for the transition to a low-carbon society.

Work packages


Course overview 


Personal Career  Development Plans 


Go/No Go: 1- year evaluation Go/No Go form


TerraNova Academy Field School series are completed


PhD: Graduation, thesis defence 


15-18 scientific publications of WP2 


Vegetation cover maps (continental and sub regional)


Map/database of natural disturbance regimes 


Agent-Based Models for past environments 


Data contributions to the TerraNova digital Atlas developed in WP3


Preliminary publication of the digital atlas 


12-16 scientific publications of WP3 


Final publication of Digital atlas of landscape evolution


Documentation of  pathways and perceptions of future landscape change contextualized in the long-term landscape history of Europe


8-10 scientific publications of WP4 


Scenarios and social valuations of land management


Guidelines on land management practices 


Strategic (context dependent) guidelines 


Instruments, tools, and protocols for decision making


Data Management Plan DMP 


The TerraNova communication and dissemination plan


White paper I 


White paper II 


White paper III 


Guidelines for EU network 


Regional policy frameworks 


The TerraNova MOOC 


The TerraNova conference Managing landscape histories, past, present and future


Potential inputs for policy feedback 


Project website: The project website (intranet as well as internet) is up and running


Consortium Agreement 


Supervisory Board 


How are the 15 Researchers Trained?

TERRANOVA strives for excellence in research, interdisciplinary work, intersectoral exchange in an effort to stimulate our researchers to cross boundaries and reach for innovative solutions and clear communication, dissemination and exploitation of methods, outcomes and knowledge.

The training programme is based on three training scales: local, inter-local, and network-wide. The researchers participate in multi-site training through secondments at our partner institutions. These partners are significant European players in landscape history, planning, cultural heritage.

In addition to a dedicated supervisor, each researcher has a minimum of two co-Supervisors from different disciplines and sectors. The Secondments support cooperation between the teams enabling each researcher to mature as independent, internationally oriented re-searcher, be exposed to different disciplines and (non)academic work environments, experience the daily practice of landscape management and rewilding scenarios, and discuss major issues in long term sustainability, food security and energy supplies for negotiating the transition to a low carbon society.


Each ESR will be tutored both by their primary supervisor at their host university and secondary supervisors at their secondment institutions, at least one of which is nonacademic. At the start the ESR (early stage researcher aka Phd student aka researcher) will work together with the supervisors to draw up a Personal Career Development Plan, which details their study arrangements and the individual skill-training needed, along with an individual time schedule.

Weekly meetings (or bi-weekly electronic video/Skype/teleconferences) are arranged with supervisors and other project members (e.g. laboratory/field workers and other local PhD students) to discuss ongoing work. The researchers are required to attend relevant lectures, conferences and workshops external to the TERRANOVA network, such as local PhD programmes or faculty seminars.

Work visits

The secondments provide researchers with targeted interdisciplinary and intersectoral exposure. They will spend at least a three-month secondment at one of the participants in another sector than their host institution. This allows partners to provide the best facilities for training the researchers.

Network-wide training

Every 6 months, the researchers and their supervisor(s) will attend a TERRANOVA Academy Field School (TAFS). Each TAFS is organised in: a) 2 -day of Core day conference where all 15 projects will be presented and discussed, b) 2-day Intensive training programme focused on promoting interdisciplinary, intersectoral, and transdisciplinary understanding, with strong contributions of non-academic partners and external experts, and c) 2-day Field based study programme  organised by the local partners of the TAFS meeting (local excursions).

TAFS meetings are thematically based on the four landscape energy regimes and their three transitions, starting with ‘Hunter/Gatherers’ in TAFS I and finishing with the future ‘Low-carbon society’ in TAFS VII. At each of the seven TAFS meetings, the researchers will learn to reconstruct the landscape histories and legacies, to rethink the balance between nature and culture, and to discuss future landscapes with respect to the particular energy regime phase or transition phase in focus. TAFS are hosted by the laboratory areas most relevant to the thematic energy regime of that week.

Our partners ELO and IUCN (with an extended European network in sustainable development, environmental conservation and protection, renewable energies and responsible use of natural resources) will host the 6th TAFS with the theme Green Transition in Brussels.

Next to network-wide training and work visits, interdisciplinary learning curves between researchers are stimulated, during regularly scheduled video-conferencing, interactive webinars and electronic data exchange.