Urbanization is a well-known topic in sustainable development debates as it is known to have great impacts on landscape and environment. Low density, apparently random, scattered or fragmented and leap frogging forms of urban land use, not classified as core urban fabric (town, city, ...) nor classified as real ‘countryside’ are studied in this paper. With a thorough literature study of more than 200 publications, a number of interesting conclusions about this important environmental and socio-economical phenomenon can be made. At first, it is generally described as either a type of land use or land use dynamic functioning as ‘divide’ between city and countryside (the urban fringe theory), or it is very often described as the dynamic and fast transformation of rural land into urban land (the sprawl approach). In some cases it forms its own ‘landscape’ and it is called the peri-urban or more correctly semi-urban area. Generally, there seems to be a lack of good definitions and frameworks, although it is studied often and in various scientific disciplines. Prominently, there is an always present dichotomy between rural and urban in all concepts, theories and definitions proposed.
It is increasingly expected from environmental research such as landscape research that science directly contributes to the solving of pressing societal problems. However, despite increased efforts to direct research towards societal problems, it is not obvious if science has become more effective in supporting environmental problem-solving. We present in this article a framework that facilitates the analysis and design of problem-orientation in research fields. We then apply the proposed framework to a concrete example of a problem-oriented landscape research field - namely research on biotic invasions. Invasion research addresses the problem that some organisms, that have been introduced by humans to a new geographic area where they were previously not present, spread in the landscape and pose negative impacts. We argue that problem-oriented research is more than applied research. Besides research on specific questions it also encompasses boundary management, i.e., deliberations among experts and stakeholders on the framing of adequate research questions about processes, values and practices for effective problem-solving. We postulate that such research may assist problem-solving in three ways, by analysing causal relationships (systems knowledge), clarifying conflicts of interests and values (target knowledge), or contributing to the development of appropriate means for action (transformation knowledge). We show that over the past decades a broad range of different research approaches has emerged in the young field of invasion research in order to produce systems, target and transformation knowledge for invasive species management. Early research in the field was dominated by the development of systems knowledge, but increasingly the three knowledge forms are treated more equally. The research field has also become more interdisciplinary and context-specific. Boundary management in invasion research is mainly restricted to informal networks (communities of practice), while formal processes such as transdisciplinary research are scarce. We suggest that the paucity of structured and explicit boundary management processes will limit the future development of a more effective science for invasive species management. In particular, we envisage three obstacles that can only be removed through explicit boundary management. First, the existing theoretical frameworks are currently only partly able to integrate natural and social sciences research on the processes underlying invasions. Second, a clarification of the normative thinking about alien plant invasions is needed. Third, research on transformation knowledge has so far not fundamentally challenged the existing conceptual framing and institutional setup of invasive species management.
Land-use change has been identified as one the most important processes to understand and to model global change. It is the result of complex interactions between human and environmental driving factors. A key to capturing this complexity is the analytical framework of land systems as coupled human-environment systems, a concept that is a central component of the science plan of the Global Land Project. Based on this framework, this paper presents an overview of eight integrated models of the land system. The review concentrates on model approaches that include processes of both the human and the environment sub-system and which operate in a spatially explicit manner on a regional to global scale. Another criterion used to select models is that they take into account interplay and competition between different land-use activities, e.g. between agriculture and urban development. Each model is reviewed separately in detail with focus on the different aspects of the land system that are represented within the model and on the implemented modelling concepts. This is done by systematically addressing the following topics: model purpose and application, model concepts for the human sub-system and for the environment sub-system and linkages between the sub-systems (model integration). Based on these findings commonalities and differences between the models are discussed and further research needs are identified.