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Land system science (LSS) has substantially advanced understanding of land dynamics throughout the world. However, studies that explicitly address the causative role of culture in land systems have been fairly limited relative to those examining other structural dimensions (e.g. markets, policies, climate). In this paper, we aim to start a discussion on how to better include culture in LSS. Through four examples, we show how aspects of culture influence land systems in myriad ways. Building on existing causal land system models, we propose a conceptual framework for the role of culture in land use and summarize promising methodological innovations for exploring it further. We conclude with some thoughts on how the study of culture and its integration through reflexive, locally grounded approaches, while challenging, provides new opportunities for the development of LSS.


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