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What We Do

We are a group of 15 young researchers working with a large consortium of established experts looking into various aspects of sustainable land management. We are made up of archaeologists, palynologists, environment reconstruction experts, climatologists, ecologists, and policy makers, to name a few. We are looking at land management and land changes in Europe from the Eemian to the present and into the future. Our goals are to produce high quality, collaborative research, valuing cooperation, integrity and academic excellence while remaining as sustainable and environmentally conscious as possible.

TerraNova will create new networks combining students, teachers and entrepreneurs. By pooling existing knowledge and experience, TerraNova will thus generate new avenues of analysis and landscape management that are rooted in the land use history but adapted to future challenges and contexts.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and is categorized as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Innovative Training Network (MSCA-ITN).

Sustainable land management

European societies have exploited and managed their landscapes for millennia, but recent rapid socioeconomic changes and high societal demands on the environment have become a challenge for land managers. Recent anthropogenic climate change has been recognized as one of the greatest threats to ecosystem services and human well-being. In the future, new synergies and trade-offs, along with climate and demographic changes will strain the water-energy-food nexus that sustains modern society.

This water-energy-food nexus presents the pressing challenge for sustainable land management to understand the interdisciplinary nature of landscape history, the development of rural areas, and the transition to a low-carbon society. Land managers today need an unprecedented depth and breadth of knowledge about the physical, social, and cultural characteristics of the landscapes for which they are responsible. In addition, they need to understand how their landscapes evolved as a product of both cultural and natural influences through prehistoric and historic times and the current trajectories under climate change, elevated CO2 concentrations, waste, air pollution and present-day perspectives on our natural and cultural heritage.

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

  1. To reconstruct the deep history of Europe’s cultural landscapes and corresponding changes in human-nature interactions in relation to “energy regimes” and their transitions.
  2. To rethink the outcomes of human-environmental interactions throughout human history 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.

Bridge the Past and the Present

By learning from past land management strategies we can learn how past peoples modified their landscapes and overcame crisis. We aim to use this knowledge to manage the present and the future by exploring strategies to preserve landscapes of the past as values for landscape users of the future.

Designing land management for the future will benefit from reconstructing past landscape changes in relation to past energy regimes and associated environments; and enrich future policy guidelines. Reconstructions of past environments will produce high-resolution data of energy regimes and their transitions from the continental scale to the TerraNova field laboratory regions supporting analysis of human-environment interactions. Results will be documented in an open-access digital atlas of ancient landscapes, energy regimes and climate scenarios.

TerraNova analyses proxy data sources to:

(i) model past climates and anthropogenic land cover,
(ii) compile and synthesise archaeological, palaeobotanical and macrofaunal data,
(iii) perform spatial mapping and stakeholder-based evaluation of biodiversity and ecosystem services,
(iv) model future land use in the cultural landscape
(v) apply long-term landscape change on decision analysis. These different lenses provide an overarching view of the socio-ecological system and provide the basis for translating the analysis of the past and present into recommendations for future landscape management.