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Understanding Landscape Stewardship – Lessons to be Learned from Public Service Economics


  • Marianne Penker,

  • Barbara Enengel,

  • Carsten Mann,

  • Olivier Aznar

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    • Marianne Penker and Barbara Enengel are associate professor and researcher, respectively, at the Department of Economics and Social Sciences at BOKU University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna in Austria. Carsten Mann is a member of the Innovation in Governance Research Group at the Center for Technology and Society at Technische Universität Berlin in Germany. Olivier Aznar is senior researcher at the French National Research Institute of Science and Technology for Environment and Agriculture (Irstea) in Clermont-Ferrand. E-mail: for correspondence. The analysis presented here is the outcome of the French–Austrian research project “Les nouveaux enjeux économiques des actions paysagères, éléments pour une nouvelle orientation de l’économie du paysage” that has been funded by the French Ministry of Environment within the research programme ‘Paysage et Développement durable’. The authors are particularly grateful to Rachael Williams, Michael Braito, the anonymous reviewers and the editor David Harvey who have generously given their time to comment on earlier drafts of this paper. Errors and omissions in the final version are, of course, entirely the authors’.


We argue that public service economics provides a new perspective on landscape stewardship by explaining it as human-to-human transfer of partial property rights. These mutually linked exchanges involve rights to use, to access, or to control and allocate land, labour, skills or information. From the perspective of public service economics, we identify the actors involved in landscape stewardship and distinguish entrepreneurial strategies for service provision based on resource orientation, user orientation or competiveness orientation. The difficulties in evaluating the quality of services in general and landscape stewardship in particular result in substantial uncertainty. Three types of contracts that cope differently with this uncertainty can be distinguished: contracts focusing on the technical process, on the intended outcome or on the choice of suppliers based on trust and features of their performance potential. We conclude that a service economics perspective can add to the understanding of landscape stewardship. Due to the fact that ‘public service’ is already a well-known and broadly acknowledged concept in society, public service economics could possibly provide more rapid progress towards a better co-ordination of supply and demand for landscape qualities than other more novel concepts.