Sustainable Futures for Europe’s Heritage in Cultural Landscapes: Tools for understanding, managing, and protecting landscape functions and values


The HERCULES project seeks to empower public and private actors to protect and sustainably manage cultural landscapes that possess significant cultural, socio-economic, historical, natural and archaeological value, at a local, national and Pan-European level.

Funded through the Seventh Framework Program (FP7) of the EU, the project assembles 13 partners from European Universities and research institutes, small and medium-sized enterprises and non-governmental organisations to develop a holistic approach that incorporates diverse stakeholder perspectives to appropriately address landscape changes. While the adoption of the European Landscape Convention (ELC) has attracted much attention from the sciences, policy makers and the general public, cultural landscapes are in need of further action to ensure their continued existence.

The project starts by assessing and synthesizing the existing knowledge on the dynamics, drivers, patterns and outcomes of cultural landscapes and the transformations they are subjected to. This is done to enable the development of management tools for landscape observation and modelling and to shed light on the opportunities and threats relating to cultural landscapes. The HERCULES project then provides a strong and unified vision of “pathways” toward protecting heritage in cultural landscapes, which provide policy makers and practitioners with up to date information to guide effective decision making.

The insights, technologies and strategies developed throughout the project are rigorously applied in five to six regional study landscapes, selected to ensure a balanced representation of environmental and land use gradients within Europe. The study landscapes represent diverse European cultural landscapes, ranging from outstanding “flagship” to “ordinary” landscapes.

IHOPE members Carole Crumley, Kim von Hackwitz and Daniel Löwenborg participate via Uppsala University working mainly in Work Package 2: Studying long-term landscape change.

The principal aim of work package 2 is to enhance methodologies in order to collect data and create knowledge about the long-term dimension of cultural landscape change. More specifically, this work package defines an innovative methodological procedure for understanding the long-term development and transformation of cultural landscapes, drawing on recent insights from landscape archaeology, geography and (historical) ecology.

The underlying procedure informs the definitions and the conceptual framework devised in work package 1. Developing and testing an infrastructural facility for retrieving and linking archaeological, historical and ecological data and geo-information (SDI) to support the interdisciplinary study of landscape changes is also a key task of this work package. Finally, work package 2 develops models for analysing long-term trends in landscape history in the study landscapes. In this we use the study landscape of Uppland.