Landscape Research Group is a partner in the major EU-funded research project “Project HERCULES”. The purpose of the project is to advise the EU on how best to develop “Sustainable futures for Europe’s HERitage in CULtural landscapES: Tools for understanding, managing, and protecting Iandscape functions and values”. The project commenced on 1 December 2013 for a 36 month period, and the EU funding for the project is nearly €3 million.

HERCULES is being carried out by a consortium of fourteen partners drawn from the academic/ research, small-medium enterprises and landowner/land -manager business sectors, across Europe. It will be undertaken as a series of work programmes, to which the different partners will contribute in varying proportions according to their expertise. A brief extract from the project summary / abstract is:

European cultural landscapes are valued as everyday living environment, countryside, heritage, scenery with aesthetic and recreational qualities and unique biodiversity, and as a source of ecosystem services that they provide to society. Cultural landscapes, however, are undergoing rapid and fundamental transformations across Europe, … So far, substantial challenges have inhibited the design of effective responses to safeguard cultural landscape values. The proposed HERCULES project … will (a) synthesise existing knowledge on drivers, patterns, and outcomes of persistence and change in Europe’s cultural landscapes; (b) perform targeted case studies to develop in-depth insights on dynamics and values of cultural landscapes; (c) develop a typology of cultural landscapes and scale-up case study insights using observations and landscape modelling; (d) develop visions for re-coupling social and ecological components in cultural landscapes and translate them into policy and management options; and (e) design and implement a community-based Knowledge Hub for Good Landscape Practice and demonstrate it with land users, agencies, SMEs, and citizen associations. …

Landscape Research Group’s contribution is formally part of “Work Package 9: Design of recommendations for landscape policy and practice, communication, and dissemination”. This comprises activities related to awareness, stakeholder dialogue, dissemination of results, and relevant communication with external stakeholders. The publicity and dissemination activities reflect the needs and characteristics of HERCULES and will include examples of good landscape practices and relevant policy recommendations, as well as the need to address post-project implementation and sustainability plans.

A summary of Project HERCULES and LRG’s role in it can be found in a feature article of issue 68 of Landscape Research Extra. Much more detail can be found on the HERCULES website, with links to summaries of the roles of the different ‘work packages’, details of the nine study landscapes being used for project research, and the developing ‘Knowledge Hub’. There is also a regular blog on the HERCULES website, which contains short articles relevant to cultural landscape issues, and is intended to provoke debate and comment. Recent articles are listed on the LRG website’s ‘News‘ page. Finally, those interested can find out a little more about the HERCULES project by watching the Project Teaser, available on YouTube here.

LRG members are welcome to offer contributions to the HERCULES Cultural Landscapes Blog – details for doing so can be found here.

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