A river flows through the Batang Gadis watershed in Mandailing Natal, North Sumatra.

The Landscape Assessment Framework

Holistically measuring, monitoring and communicating a landscape's sustainability

© CI/photo by Tory Read


Implementing a landscape approach ​addresses our dual need to protect ecosystems and catalyze more sustainable agricultural production. But how do we assess a landscape’s progress toward these objectives?​​

The landscape approach has emerged as a method for holistically managing various land uses and stakeholder needs within a region, simultaneously addressing multiple objectives by seeking synergies and minimizing tradeoffs. Conservation International’s Landscape Assessment Framework (LAF) is a structure for measuring, monitoring and communicating the sustainability of a landscape to guide local activities, inform policy and advise investments.​​​​

The LAF is not a system for monitoring and evaluation of project outcomes, but rather of indicators that collectively characterize the sustainability of a landscape against broader management objectives. LAF application enables stakeholders to answer questions about a landscape like: What is driving ecosystem degradation? How sustainable is the level of agricultural productivity? Are people benefiting from interventions?​


Why is it important?

Application of the LAF can help provide stakeholders with a holistic view of landscape sustainability, credible data to inform decision-makers and consistent information to support adaptive management.

Key features

  • Holistic assessment by using relevant indicators across all four dimensions of landscape sustainability — natural capital, sustainable production, human well-being and governance
  • High level of adaptability for various features and contexts
  • Reliance on existing sources of credible, low-cost data
  • Regular updates to monitor trends in the landscape
  • Production of dashboards and user-friendly summaries to maximize accessibility and communicability

Communicating results

The LAF provides three unique outputs to support effective decision-making and communications:

  • A framework summary card to capture overlying trends at the landscape level, including the Sustainable Landscape Index which displays progress of indicators against targets as an axis of a radar graph
  • An interactive online dashboard for monitoring and communicating
  • Web maps allowing stakeholders to perform simple analysis and interpret the spatial dynamic of the landscape


Uses of LAF analysis

  • Development and conservation organizations designing strategies, implementing projects and managing resources that seek to track the status of progress toward sustainable landscape goals
  • Commodity sourcing and producing companies identifying which landscapes and activities can position them to meet sustainability commitments
  • Investors and financial institutions determining where to invest, risks involved and growth potential
  • Governments interested in creating enabling conditions for green growth to meet development and conservation goals

How to apply the LAF

It is critical to start by delineating boundaries and defining sustainable landscape goals and targets across all four dimensions of landscape sustainability — natural capital, sustainable production, human well-being and governance.

Once that is complete, the steps in the LAF cycle are: 

  1. Select relevant landscape indicators
  2. Compile and analyze specific data for selected indicators
  3. Communicate current status and change through summary card and interactive dashboard
  4. Guide investments and adaptive management
  5. Monitor changes over time
  6. Review indicators and available datasets