1. This paper is an introduction to a special issue of Freshwater Biology containing selected papers from the First International Symposium on Riverine Landscapes held in March 2001 in Switzerland. 2. The primary goal of the symposium was to synthesise present understanding of riverine landscapes from the perspectives of different disciplines. A landscape approach was used to address interactions between patterns and processes, in the context of spatial heterogeneity, across scales in physical and biological systems. 3. The three main themes were: (i) hydrogeomorphic processes, (ii) biological dynamics and (iii) human influences in riverine landscapes.