Landscape ecology has provided valuable insights in the relations between spatial structure and the functioning of landscapes. However, in most global scale environmental assessments the representation of landscapes is reduced to the dominant land cover within a 0.5 degree pixel, disregarding the insights about the role of structure, pattern and composition for the functioning of the landscape. This paper discusses the contributions landscape ecology can make to global scale environmental assessments. It proposes new directions for representing landscape characteristics at broad spatial scales. A contribution of landscape ecologists to the representation of landscape characteristics in global scale assessments will foster improved information and assessments for the design of sustainable earth system governance strategies. © 2012 The Author(s).