Landscape Decisions: Towards a new framework for using land assets

Forest trees

The Landscape Decisions: Towards a new framework for using land assets programme will address the challenge of delivering better, evidence-based decisions within UK landscapes through research collaboration with policy, business and land management partners to deliver an interdisciplinary decision-making framework to inform how land is used.

The programme is supported on behalf of UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) by NERC, the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC), the Biotechnology & Biological Science Research Council (BBSRC) and the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

The programme is funded through the Strategic Priorities Fund, which has been set up to build upon the vision of a 'common research fund' set out in Sir Paul Nurse's independent review of the research councils. The fund will drive an increase in high-quality multi- and interdisciplinary research and innovation, ensure that UKRI's investment links up effectively with government departments' research priorities and opportunities, and ensure that the system is able to respond to strategic priorities and opportunities.

Announcement of Opportunity: Landscape Decisions Fellowships

Closing date: 26 Mar

2 Dec 2019

UKRI invites fellowship proposals in research synthesis, research translation and community engagement research in the area of landscape decision-making.

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As individuals, communities and a country, we are required to make multiple decisions using landscapes. Making landscape-scale decisions now has a timely political imperative; about one third of the more than 800 pieces of EU environmental legislation that will be needed after EU exit could be difficult to transpose into UK law. At the same time, the UK government is setting out ambitious, long-term aspirations for its management of the environment, for example through the 25 Year Environment Plan. Together, these requirements and political developments provide a unique opportunity for the UK to think differently about a long-standing frontier challenge about how we use land.

A landscape is the product of environmental processes, social and cultural requirements and values, and the ecosystem services associated with them. It will change continually across multiple scales (of space and time) through changes to natural systems such as water, air, climate and biodiversity, which are themselves influenced by multiple uses and users of the landscape. All have been changing over time and interact; many are now moving faster than ever before.

This programme will address the following:

  • How can land be managed, to realise benefits for the benefit of society, individual well-being and the environment, both now and in the future?
  • How can research and innovation provide solutions to support effective (real world) land-use decisions that deliver improvements to the environment, health, well-being and the economy?

The programme will be structured across three work packages:

  1. Developing new mathematics.
  2. Building new model solutions.
  3. Stimulating new thinking and communities.

These work packages are inter-related and unified by overarching activities that together will deliver the programme outcomes:

  • A move towards a holistic framework for land-use decision-making.
  • The emergence of a new community from the diverse research base, capable of articulating and underpinning a new decision framework.

To move towards a holistic decision-making framework requires activities that develop a new community from the diverse research base, and expose this to the land allocation models currently being used to capture the complexity. Through this, the programme will work to understand their opportunities and weaknesses, and seek to strengthen them through new mathematical methodology.

Current approaches to landscape decisions do not capture the complex ways we utilise the landscapes and value the benefits we realise from using land. Decisions made at scales from regional to local will impact on the flow and quality of ecosystem services that contribute to our environmental biodiversity, benefit our economy, our societal health and well-being, and our livelihoods.

Challenge lies in capturing complexity of outcomes that flow from the 'adapting' and 'changing' feedback loops, and ensuring these decision points draw from interventions that:

  • capture trade-offs between quality of the environment, social groups, health, well-being and the economy
  • pay attention to cultural, aesthetic and heritage consequences of interventions in the long term.


2018 - 2023

Can I apply for a grant?

A call for small proposals on mathematical and statistical challenges has now closed.

A second call for proposals on mathematical and statistical challenges has now closed.

Two further funding calls led by AHRC - external link - have now closed.


£10·5 million is available to support a number of activities over the four years of the programme.

Programme awards

Details of the funded projects are available on Grants on the Web.

Programme Board

The Strategic Priorities Fund Landscape Decisions Programme will be governed by the Programme Board (PB), which is responsible for the strategic direction and management of the programme and delivery of the programme's objectives. The PB currently comprises appropriate representation from the funders: UKRI-NERC, UKRI-EPSRC, UKRI-BBSRC, UKRI-AHRC, UKRI-ESRC.

Other individuals relevant to items being discussed will also attend PB meetings.


The Secretariat is responsible for the management of the programme on behalf of the PB, including financial management, procurement and grant awarding, which is carried out according to the policies and procedures of UKRI. The Secretariat is provided by UKRI-NERC.

Programme Coordination Team

The Programme Coordination Team (PCT) is based at the University of Leicester and led by Professor Heiko Balzter. The PCT will address the varied challenges and perspectives of the programme, and integrate its package of work with other new and ongoing activities within the programme in a cohesive way. The PCT will help develop the interdisciplinary capability of the programme (across the natural, social, mathematical and biological sciences, and the arts and humanities) and stakeholder engagement to address the challenges. Members to be appointed.

Steering Committee

A steering committee will be convened to provide strategic advice to deliver the objectives of the programme.

Members of the team are:

  • Professor Heiko Balzter
  • Rhiannon Harte-Chance (Programme Manager)
  • Professor Sergei Petrovskii
  • Professor Martin Phillips
  • Professor Sibylle Schroll
  • Professor Ivan Tyukin
  • Dr Mick Whelan
  • Dr Beth Cole