Sustainable urban landscapes: South African perspectives on transdisciplinary possibilities


The development of sustainable urban landscapes challenges all stakeholders, including local governments as the major custodians thereof. The majority of urban ecological research done describes European and North American cities. South Africa's position in the global South underlines the potential that local research has in contributing to global knowledge. South African urban landscapes are rich in biodiversity and characterized by cultural diversity and steep socio-economic gradients. Spatial inequality, specifically access to resources and green areas, greatly influences the perceived importance and need of urban green space to citizens and policy makers. This legacy is a major challenge to the implementation of sustainability oriented contemporary urban planning and environmental management practices in South Africa. Sustainable solutions call for transdisciplinary approaches, in which the contributions of both non-academic and academic role players are integrated. Therefore, we investigated the possible interface between urban ecology, urban planning, and environmental management, within current policy and legislation frameworks and within practice in South Africa. We highlight certain aspects of the three disciplines that could contribute to transdisciplinary planning approaches, such as mapping and valuation of ecosystem services, strategic and integrated thinking, prediction and scenario building, governance, and decision-making and participatory planning. We believe that awareness of the major contributions of each discipline would refine the linkages between social and ecological issues proposed by several existing conceptual frameworks, leading to a transdisciplinary approach to plan for sustainable urban landscapes. The South African perspective presented in this paper could guide other (similar) global scenarios with regard to transdisciplinary planning approaches that could enhance the development of sustainable urban landscapes.

Publication Type
Journal Article
Sarel Cilliers, North-West University
MariƩ du Toit
JuaneƩ Cilliers
Ernst Drewes
Francois Retief
Landscape and Urban Planning