Combining influential landforms; life-giving water bodies; and native species with the crops, structures and sculptures of human culture, landscapes are the living, breathing containers of biocultural diversity.
What is it?
The landscape is the context in which the biological, the cultural, and the biophysical all interact and unfold into lush manifestations of life and growth; of expression and renewal. In a resilient landscape, the diversity of life and the elements thrive together in a dance of co-evolution and regeneration, resulting in an interconnected system that it is resistant to shock, and adaptive to change.
Why is it important?
Resilient landscapes keep the engine of life humming. From the montane plateaus of southwestern Ethiopia to the land-seascapes of the Melanesian islands, unique landscapes spawn unique cultures and ‘lifeways’; distinctive languages and crops; keystone species and delicious flavors of food. Biocultural landscapes are the ultimate amalgamation of people and place, critical in the formation of cultural identity and the maintenance of biodiversity.
Luxuriant, resilient landscapes also provide invaluable ecosystem services, such as forest-filtered drinking water and the decomposition of wastes; and they contain that important element of ‘wild’ Nature, the ecosystems of intangible value unshaped by humans. By thinking in landscape terms, we are able to incorporate several important disciplines in our work, from conservation biology and ethnobotany to geology and anthropology.
How is The Christensen Fund involved?
For us, the landscape is the central concept of our grantmaking, as it contains the rich biocultural diversity that we seek to support. It is also the ‘unit’ by which we set our goals and measure our impacts, preferring the cultural and ecological ‘boundaries’ of landscapes over the often arbitrary political ones. That is why we break our regions of focus down to the landscape level, empowering our in-region program officers to develop programs specific to people and place, which often results in the crossing of national borders, with interesting outcomes.