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Traditional agricultural landscapes in Italy and Europe: toward a multiscale and interdisciplinary Atlas approach

Giuseppe Barbera UniversitĂ degli studi di Palermo

•In these first slides, I would like to talk about the Mediterranean Landscape, because of Europe's landscapes, it best represents the complexity and difficulty of defining a World Atlas Landscape.

In fact, the number and diversity of agricultural landscapes is an aspect that characterizes Mediterranean regions. This has been well known since the dawn of Environmental History. George Perkins Marsh, author of the book that "founded" this science, and whose observations were derived from his over two-decade service as American Ambassador to Italy, knew this very well.

The provinces bordering on the‌basins of the Mediterranean enjoyed a healthfulness and an equability of climate, a fertility of soils, a variety of vegetable and animal products, and natural facilities for the transportation and distribution of exchangeable commodities, which have not been possessed in an equal degree by any territory of like extent in the Old world or in the New George Perkins Marsh, Man and Nature, 1866

•The same affirmation would be made by, Fernand Braudel, the great French historian. Braudel considered Nature the principle determinant of the notable physiografic and environmental variability because it puts three continents in contact with one another and the sea near the mountains However, he was also quite aware that the diversity was also derived from the history of the men, people, cultures, and civilizations that arrived from different and distant regions. Often, in every-day language, a landscape is called a Cultural Landscape in as much as it is steeped with historic, literary and artistic memories. However, this is, obviously, the characteristics of certain celebrated landscapes but, as we know, all landscapes are cultural!

What is useful, then, towards achieving a common and shared language is to go back to UNESCO 's definition, which considers cultural landscapes as "combined works of nature and man‌.of outstanding universal value.� including rural landscapes because they belong to the category of the organically evolved landscape, and in particular to the subcategory of the continuing landscape. As Blondel and Aronson say in the Mediterranean, the union between history and nature that leads to cultural landscapes has lasted for millennia. But after the second world war, it took directions and speeds that are quite different from that which history followed before.

Qu’est-ce que la Méditerranée ? Mille choses à la fois. Non pas un paysage, mais d’innombrables paysages. Non pas une mer, mais une succession de mers. Non pas une civilisation, mais des civilisations entassées les unes sur les autres. F. Braudel, 1985.

Valle dei Templi, Agrigento

F. Braudel, 1949

So much of the territory has been so profoundly transformed by more than 300 generations of human occupation… There is probably no square metre of the Mediterranean that has not been…manipulated and…”redesigned” by humans. Blondel & Aronson, 1999

•Beginning in the nineteen-fifties, and with ever-increasing velocity, as an effect of the phenomena of urbanization and industrialization, landscapes and agricultural systems have undergone huge changes. This first figure shows the changes in soil use that took place between the year two thousand and two-thousand-and-six, with a particularly evident increase in urbanization and of forested areas. The abandonment of agricultural areas is a growing trend ( as we can see in 2nd figure), despite policies that have began to pay more attention to their multi-functionality as well as the spread of new kinds of farmers: the phenomena that we call "neoruralism".

Land cover changes 2000-2006 (EEA): main drivers

Land abandonment (% of total land) (Global Economy Scenario 2000-2030)

[Traditional landscapes] can be defined as those landscapes having a distinct and recognisable structure which reflects clear relations between the composing elements and having a significance for natural, cultural or aesthetical values. [Traditional] refer to these landscapes with a long history, which evolved slowly and where it took centuries to form a characteristic structure reflecting a harmonious integration of abiotic, biotic and cultural elements. Because of these trends in land-use, traditional agricultural landscapes, as defined by Antrop, are disappearing or surviving with great difficulty. They are landscapes that are the result of collective projects that balanced the necessity of producing for sustenance with the local resources available and the characteristics of the environment and that produced not only economic wellbeing, but also environmental security, identity, cultural enrichment and spiritual wellbeing. Landscapes of great interest for productive ​, environmental and cultural values

The preservation of Traditional Rural Landscapes is easier if we can agree on a common glossary and when we refer to the European Landscape Convention

First of all it is clear that the name "agricultural landscape", introduced into the Italian lexicon thanks to the work of Emilio Sereni, and which was appropriate in 1961 when he published, today should be definitively substituted by "rural landscape" and that agricultural and rural should no longer be used as synonyms. The difference between agricultural and rural isn't so much in the distinction between a system that exclusively pays attention to how crops are laid out on the land (agricultural) or a conception (rural) that also regards the forms of housing, roads, settlements and facilities whether animal husbandry or forestry are included or not. Today this difference can be found rather in a change that has economic as well as social roots: in a function that is no longer prevalently productive but should be understood in multifunctional terms dictated by the eco-systemic services. Historic and traditional are two other terms that are too often miss-used as synonyms. Historic is ambiguesly used to both indicate a generic "oldness" or, on the contrary, a precise temporal collocation. Wouldn’t it be clearer to use the precise time period or the term "traditional" , which refers to a system of knowledge and practices that precede the agricultural revolution? These are the reasoning that lead us to choose the nam Traditional Rural Landscapes Furthermore, The European Landscape Convention emphasizes that landscapes, understood in their globality, require different policies and measures. But this isn't possible without adequate knowledge, beginning preci (ai)sely with the topics that we are discussing today.

"Landscape" means an area, as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and interaction of natural and/or human factors;

"Landscape protection" means actions to conserve and maintain the significant or characteristic features of a landscape, justified by its heritage value derived from its natural configuration and/or from human activity; "Landscape management" means action, from a perspective of sustainable development, to ensure the regular upkeep of a landscape, so as to guide and harmonise changes which are brought about by social, economic and environmental processes; "Landscape planning" means strong forward-looking action to enhance, restore or create landscapes. European Landscape Convention Firenze, 20.X.2000

(Meeus, 1990 and 1995)

In Europe, this knowledge is still partial and sectorial . Those working on European Landscapes know the work of Meeus, which sought to define what we have been discussing. However, his analysis was made more than 20 years ago, in a purely subjective manner and on a scale that is of little practical use for conservation, management and planning, today

Other known methods have used an approach based on the criteria of land systems overlaying physical and climatic characteristics along with more detailed land-use information. Here is an example of this kind of mapping in northern Italy. This method is objective and quantitative but it overlooks the historical, cultural, perceptive and identity aspects of the landscape

M. Agnoletti (ed.), 2011

However, these aspects have been well considered in this recent Italian survey that sought to address the historic quality of the landscape. The cataloging was based, on a necesseraly subjective view based on the experience of experts who had the task of identifying the circa 100 landscapes included in the study

Neither objective /quantitative, or subjective /qualitative approaches, can catch the complexity of the many elements that come together to form the landscape. I’ currently head a national research project aiming to define a multi-scale and multi-disciplinary approach. The first phase identifies Italy’s Traditional Rural Landscape by overlaying information layers describing territorial and agricultural context and land systems. Then, land use information was overlayed in order to derive the main cultural systems. The next step was to carry out a diachronic evaluation, using a land-use map from the nineteen sixties to define persisting homogenous areas, where land use has not changed. and on these persisting landscapes a multi-disciplinary functional database was created to describing their physiographic and environmental features, settlement patterns, agro-forestry mosaic, and socioeconomic characteristics . Based on these parameters is possible to evaluate their correspondence with Antrop’ s definition of “traditional” The second phase of the research project in progress adresses the identity of the Traditional Rural Landscapes adding information also concerning cultural aspects. The results will be avilable in the near future and we will be able to evaluate how efficient this method is.


Territorial context

Land use & land cover

(topology of sub-regional level)

(Corine LC 2005)

Agricultural context (Regioni Agrarie - Catasto Agrario)

Main cultural landscape units Land systems

(for main afro-forestry and forestry systems)

Italian land use map of ‘50-’60 Land systems of agricultural contexts


PAT Traditional rural landscapes Legend: Overlays in input Output Cartographic overlay Elaboration process

(by permanence of traditional land uses)

Diachronic analysis

(Climate, altitude, geomorphology, litology)

Multiscale and multidisciplinary data sheets for the Traditional Agricultural Landscape inventory and characteristics:

«Landscape system» data sheet : ● Denomination and geographical location ● Physiography and environmental characteristics ● Socio-economic characteristics ● Land use & land use changes (‘50-2000)

«Landscape unit» data sheet : ● Location and environmental aspects ● Dettailed land use changes (‘50-2000) ● Analysis of traditional patches (land use permanence)

«Study plot» data sheet : ● General characteristics (denomination, location) ● Physiography & environmental characteristics ● Detailed land use types (especially related to tree crops) ● Evolutive (dynamic) & sustainable aspects of the analysed rural landscape ● Socio-economic aspects

● agricultural characteristics of the traditional tree crops ● types of rural architecture ● Historical sites connected to the traditional tree crops

Mapping processes at national and regional scales in Italy : layers and other input data Physical/Vegetation aspects

Historical/Cultural aspects

Traditional rural landscapes (TRL) of Italy • Land use/cover maps (Evironmental units of Italy.) • Historical maps ( Ecoregions ) (Analisi Zonale Agric. italiana, 1965) ( CNR/TCI 1960 – CLC 2006)

• Satellite data (MODIS, Aster, Landsat, ...)

• Historical rural landscapes of Italy

• Other • Landscape lists, • Cataloques (Paesaggi TCI, Sereni)

• Literature; Painting; Photography; Cinema…

Main TRL in Italy

The Landscape of the “Mediterranean garden” (Sereni 1961) of Halaesa Map (by Sicca 1924, cited in Sereni 1961) based on the ‘Tavola di Alesa, providing spatial information on the landscape structure of the city of Halaesa (III B.C.)

At this moment I hope that this presentation has contributed to the debate in progress. But most of all, I hope that all together, we will be able to make a contribution towards the conservation and management of the Traditional Rural Landscapes. In order to avoid, for example, that landscapes such as the one that inspired the idea of the Mediterranean Garden became defaced by motorways!

Alesa, today

The perfection of the landscape is the simultaneity of flower and fruit. The idea of garden, contemplative nature, with that of the orchard, nature useful in life, all coincide in an absolute garden. R. Assunto, Il Paesaggio e l’Estetica, 1973 In conclusion, looking back to Marsh, we can see that the lessons that can be learned from Mediterranean traditional rural landscapes go beyond local interest, and that the conservation, restoration and integration of their diversity, beauty, utility, economy, ecology, aesthetics, and ethics, are one of the most important patrimonies to pass on to the future. As Rosario Assunto, a maestro of the philosophy of aestetics, teaches.

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Traditional agricultural landscapes in Italy and Europe: toward a multiscale and interdisciplinary  

WRL Meeting Milan, 2014

Traditional agricultural landscapes in Italy and Europe: toward a multiscale and interdisciplinary  

WRL Meeting Milan, 2014

Profile for labparid

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