You are here

Towards Sustainable Landscapes in the Neotropics: Land Use Planning for People and Nature


This course addressed the ways in which land use planning processes may be used as an important tool to support the protection and responsible use of biodiversity and natural resources, in areas that interact with,  but are situated outside of, formally declared protected areas. Participants included mostly government officials from Panama, where land use planning efforts are just beginning, and Peru, where these efforts are currently underway. The course was intended to help them build a strong conceptual framework for sustainable land use planning that they may apply in their current and future work.


Module 1. Introduction to biodiversity

  • Presented participants with a series of principles and fundamental ecological concepts that form the base of sustainable land-use planning. Principle themes covered in this module included: (a) What is biodiversity, how does it function, and what is required to ensure its existence over the long term? (b) What environmental services do biodiversity and natural resources offer and what mechanisms exist to ensure the continued existence of these services?

Module 2. What is at stake? The state of biodiversity and natural resources

  • Covered the state of biodiversity and natural resources in Latin America in a general sense, and more specifically Panama and Peru, as well as the main threats to these resources, the consequences of their loss and/or degradation, and projections for the future. Discussed the ecological context of the Bocas del Toro region, with special attention to the relationship between tropical forests and marine ecosystems, environmental services generated by these systems, the main threats faced by these resources, and the consequences of their degradation. 

Module 3. Environmental management and natural resources decision-making

  • Discussed the principles of natural resource management, and some basic strategies for management used to integrate the human development with biodiversity and natural resource conservation in a sustainable manner. The basic principles of management covered included agroforestry, biological corridors, eco-tourism development, sustainable forest management, and liquid and solid waste management.

Module 4. Land-use planning for sustainable development

  • Introduced the principles of sustainable land-use planning and examined the historical development of the concept, the basic mechanisms used in designing and implementing the process, and the specific benefits of focusing on sustainable land-use planning. The central topics were illustrated with case studies from Bocas del Toro and several from Peru.

Module 5.The development of a conceptual base for sustainable land-use planning

  • Participants' perspectives on land-use planning and the areas which their institutions represent. Participants worked together under the direction of a professional facilitator and experienced land-use planners to develop an acceptable definition of sustainable land-use planning that can be used to guide national, regional and local land-use planning processes. Participants presented their work.