Faia Brava reserve, Côa valley, Portugal (© Staffan Widstrand, Rewilding Europe)


The TERRANOVA project aims to train Early Stage Researchers (ESR’s) working with policy makers and the wider society with a deep appreciation of a wide range of sectors affecting landscapes, and to form a new generation capable of coproducing responses to the interdisciplinary challenges of land management where ecosystem services, cultural heritage, and economic qualities are balanced and preserved, taking into consideration ongoing climate, environmental and social change.


European societies have exploited and managed their landscapes for millennia, but recent rapid socioeconomic changes and high societal demands on the environment have become a challenge for land managers. Specifically, recent anthropogenic climate change has been recognized as one of the greatest threats to ecosystem services and human well-being2. In the future, new synergies and trade-offs, along with climate and demographic changes will have to strain the water-energy-food nexus upon which modern society is sustained.

This water-energy-food nexus presents a pressing challenge for sustainable land management to understand the interdisciplinary nature of landscape history, the development of rural areas, and the transition to a low-carbon society. Land managers today need an unprecedented depth and breadth of knowledge about the physical, social, and cultural characteristics of the landscapes for which they are responsible3. Furthermore, they need to understand how their landscapes evolved as a product of both cultural and natural influences through prehistoric and historic times and the current trajectories under climate change, elevated CO2 concentrations, waste, air pollution and present-day perspectives on our natural and cultural heritage (Fig. 1.1).


Fig. 1.1: The concept of energy regimes through time, the increasing magnitude of human influence and changing balance between nature and culture. Training researchers to understand and negotiate the uncertain “future of nature” (variously grey shaded areas) is a major focus of TerraNova. NB the time scale is nonlinear. B= Bronze Age, I= Iron Age, R= Roman Age, Me= Medieval, Mo= Modern Times




The three main research objectives that contribute to the overall aim of this ITN are:

1: To reconstruct the deep history of Europe’s cultural landscapes and corresponding changes in coupled human-nature interactions within subsequent human energy regimes and their transitions.

2: To rethink the outcomes of human environmental interactions over the past three energy regimes on the present-day landscape in Europe, in order to inform future energy transitions from a long-term environmental and social perspective.

3: To design landscape management strategies, i) to provide scientific guidance on threats and opportunities for natural and cultural values of Europe’s landscapes, ii) to define criteria for assisted restoration of ecosystems of former (abandoned) agricultural areas, and iii) to generate future scenarios for cultural landscape change, with integrated landscape, cultural heritage and biodiversity models, to inform current planning initiatives, e.g. for the transition to a low-carbon society.



The transdisciplinary approach of TerraNova bridges the past and the future by

1) learning from the past to manage the future and

2) exploring strategies to preserve landscapes of the past as values for landscape users of the future.

Designing land management for the future will benefit from reconstructing past landscape changes in relation to past energy regimes and associated environments; and enrich future policy guidelines. Reconstructions of past environments will produce high-resolution data of energy regimes and their transitions from the continental scale to the TerraNova field laboratory regions supporting analysis of humanenvironment interactions. Results will be documented in an open access digital atlas of ancient landscapes, energy regimes and climate scenarios.

TerraNova analyses proxy data sources to: (i) model past climates and anthropogenic land cover, (ii) compile and synthesise archaeological, palaeobotanical and macrofaunal data, (iii) perform spatial mapping and stakeholder-based evaluation of biodiversity and ecosystem services, (iv) model future land use in the cultural landscape, and (v) apply long-term landscape change on decision analysis. These different lenses provide an overarching view of the socio-ecological system and provide the basis for translating the analysis of the past and present into recommendations for future landscape management. TerraNova will create new networks combining students, teachers and entrepreneurs. By pooling existing knowledge and experience, TerraNova will thus generate new avenues of analysis and landscape management that are rooted in the land use history but adapted to future challenges and contexts.

Project structure and work packages

TerraNova provides better understanding of the natural and social drivers of landscape change in Europe. The dialogue with a wide array of stakeholders will inform the researchers on the desirable balance between changes in cultural and natural landscapes (cf. the European Landscape Convention). Current and future transitions will be put into a long-term perspective. Landscapes in need of assisted restoration and proactive measures will be identified. Land management options will be investigated from the perception of European landscapes as multifunctional mosaics contributing to Natural Capital.

TerraNova is divided into six WPs. The 15 individual Early Stage Researcher (ESR) projects are grouped together to ensure continuous interdisciplinary and intersectoral exchange of research experience and results. All projects contribute to a) the interdisciplinary assembly of the digital atlas of integrated modelling of Holocene land-cover change in Europe over different cultural ERs (WPs 2- 3), b) the production of policy documents, white papers and future strategies (WPs 3- 4).














The individual research projects will be implemented at regional and continental scales across a number of common field laboratory sites, as well as across the Atlas and Policy groups.

ESRs 1, 6-10, and 12-14 will perform a spatial and temporal analysis of combined Holocene palaeoclimatic, palaeoecological, mega faunal and future landscape management data ranging from the European scale to specified field laboratories. ESRs 2-5, 11 and 15 will perform regional landscape archaeological syntheses, assessments of regional rewilding frameworks, and decision support analysis on a European field laboratory scale.

Selection of the three TERRANOVA field laboratory areas within the European landscape is based on: 1) the continental variation in climatic settings, 2) the availability and disclosure of interdisciplinary data resources within the selected area, 3) the potential of multiple disciplines within TERRANOVA to retrieve and compare data from the same laboratory area to reconstruct and rethink human-environment interactions on the landscape.















Each WP is represented in all field laboratories (FL).

A North-European field laboratory is located in parts of The Netherlands, Germany and Sweden. The Rhine-Meuse delta is a well-documented lowland fluvial system in the central-Netherlands in a Temperate-Atlantic climate (FL1a). The ‘Oder Delta’ is a fluvial system in a Rewilding Europe area in eastern Germany (FL1b), while the Uppland area is a highland-coastal area in central Sweden (FL1c); both regions are located in a Boreal-Continental climate.

A Southwest European field laboratory is located in western Spain and northern Portugal, and contains the ‘Western Iberia’ Rewilding Europe area and Peneda-Gerês National Park (FL2). This highland area is dissected by floodplains and has a TemperateAtlantic/Mediterranean Atlantic climate.

A Southeast European field laboratory in Romania contains the ‘Danube Delta’ and the ‘Southern Carpathians’ Rewilding Europe areas (FL3). The area is also located in a highland region separated by expanses of a floodplain and has an Alpine-Continental climate.


TERRANOVA will achieve a balance between natural and cultural landscapes for the future, using historic landscape images, working with eminent European academic specialists, small to medium enterprises and NGO’s in landscape research and management and rewilding. Such an approach will train a new generation of researchers which are no longer limited by mono-disciplinary focus but are able to connect disciplinary insights across sectors and timescales. Such training is urgently needed to tackle current sustainability challenges embedded in long-term human-environment dynamics. Previously many of the disciplines focussing on long-term dynamics did not prepare students for the job market. The world’s largest environmental organisation (IUCN) and Europe’s leading rewilding company (RE) will take part in the consortium and significantly contribute to the societal relevance and direct job opportunities for TerraNova ESRs.

TERRANOVA ESRs are working with time series data and pattern recognition which are valuable, marketable and highly transferable skills in: i) businesses that perform geography-based market research to identify potential customers, ii) modern businesses that maintain large geodatabases and target customers with customised information, and iii) management consulting, where analytical skills and spatial reasoning are highly valued.

TERRANOVA is closely linked to other established interdisciplinary networks (i.e. Future Earth, IHOPE, PAGES-LandCover6K, GLP, COST-INTIMATE, OPPLA, REAL and CASE networks) which exposes TERRANOVA graduates to a wide range of opportunities.

The doctoral research training specifically prepares the TERRANOVA graduates for employability in the future management of European landscapes, and transition to a new energy balance that will have a global impact.