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Special Issue "Agroecology for the Transition towards Social-Ecological Sustainability"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Social Ecology and Sustainability".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 15 September 2018

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Dr. Marina García-Llorente

Madrid Institute for Rural Development, Agricultural and Food Research (IMIDRA), Madrid, Spain
Website | E-Mail
Interests: agroecology; ecosystem service assessment; human connectedness to nature; rural development; social-ecological system; social farming; participatory action research
Guest Editor
Dr. Elisa Oteros-Rozas

Universidad Pablo de Olavide (UPO), Seville, Spain
Website | E-Mail
Interests: traditional ecological knowledge; pastoralism; political agroecology; gender; new peasantries
Guest Editor
Dr. Federica Ravera

Universitat de Vic- Universitat Central de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain
Website | E-Mail
Interests: climate change adaptation; ecological economics; gender; multicriteria decision analysis; scenarios; sustainable rural development; vulnerability assessment

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Despite the scientific and technological achievements to improve agricultural productivity, insufficient attention has been paid to the environmental and social consequences of the prevailing agrifood system. Academics, practitioners and activists have been discussing in the last decades how can an increasing population be fed in a social-ecologically sustainable and equitable way. Meanwhile, agricultural intensification has situated agroecosystems in a vulnerable situation because of the decline of cultural values, key ecological processes and ecosystem services. As a response, agroecology was born to address the problems generated by industrial agriculture: it is presented as a practice, scientific discipline, and socio-political movement that tries to apply ecological concepts in the sustainable management of agricultural systems. Like the socio-ecological approach, agroecology requires holistic and interdisciplinary views to analyze the complex relationships that are generated between ecological functioning, human wellbeing, economic profitability, governance models and land-use policies. However, to date, agroecology has not gained enough strength as a scientific discipline and its application in agrarian, rural and landscape planning policies is hence limited. For this Special Issue we welcome contributions exploring how agroecological approaches promote the sustainability of agrarian social-ecological systems. Specifically, we welcome conceptual and empirical studies that may focus on agroecological initiatives that contribute to global and climate change adaptation and mitigation, community supported agriculture models, social and inclusive farming, agrarian ecosystem services assessments, agroecological rural development, the role of local/traditional/indigenous agroecological knowledge and its transmission, agroecological public policies, participatory-actions research processes, and gender and rural perspectives.

Dr. Marina García-Llorente
Dr. Elisa Oteros-Rozas
Dr. Federica Ravera
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • Agroecology
  • Agroecosystem
  • Ecosystem service
  • Local/traditional/indigenous ecological knowledge
  • Gender            
  • Governance
  • Global change adaptation
  • Participatory approach
  • Social-ecological system
  • Social and inclusive farming
  • Social learning

Published Papers (2 papers)

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Open AccessArticle Holistic Management and Adaptive Grazing: A Trainers’ View
Sustainability 2018, 10(6), 1848; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10061848
Received: 22 March 2018 / Revised: 25 April 2018 / Accepted: 31 May 2018 / Published: 2 June 2018
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Holistic Management (HM) is a grazing practice that typically uses high-intensity rotation of animals through many paddocks, continually adapted through planning and monitoring. Despite widespread disagreement about the environmental and production benefits of HM, researchers from both sides of that debate seem to
[...] Read more.
Holistic Management (HM) is a grazing practice that typically uses high-intensity rotation of animals through many paddocks, continually adapted through planning and monitoring. Despite widespread disagreement about the environmental and production benefits of HM, researchers from both sides of that debate seem to agree that its emphasis on goal-setting, complexity, adaptivity and strategic decision-making are valuable. These ideas are shared by systems thinking, which has long been foundational in agroecology and recognized as a valuable tool for dealing with agricultural complexity. The transmission of such skills is thus important to understand. Here, twenty-five Canadian and American adaptive grazing trainers were interviewed to learn more about how they teach such systems thinking, and how they reflect upon their trainees as learners and potential adopters. Every trainer considered decision-making to be a major component of their lessons. That training was described as tackling both the “paradigm” level—changing the way participants see the world, themselves or their farm—and the “concept/skill” level. Paradigm shifts were perceived as the biggest challenge for participants. Trainers had difficulty estimating adoption rates because there was little consensus on what constituted an HM-practitioner: to what level must one adopt the practices? We conclude that: (1) trainers’ emphasis on paradigms and decision-making confirms that HM is systems thinking in practice; (2) the planning and decision-making components of HM are distinct from the grazing methods; and (3) HM is a fluid and heterogeneous concept that is difficult to define and evaluate. Full article

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Open AccessArticle Absent Agroecology Aid: On UK Agricultural Development Assistance Since 2010
Sustainability 2018, 10(2), 505; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10020505
Received: 29 December 2017 / Revised: 1 February 2018 / Accepted: 9 February 2018 / Published: 13 February 2018
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Using figures published by the UK Department of International Development (DFID), this study finds that despite overwhelming evidence in favour of agroecology as a mode of agricultural development able to address crucial aspects of the interrelated crises facing human societies, UK development aid
[...] Read more.
Using figures published by the UK Department of International Development (DFID), this study finds that despite overwhelming evidence in favour of agroecology as a mode of agricultural development able to address crucial aspects of the interrelated crises facing human societies, UK development aid barely supports agroecology. Based on the most generous interpretation, this study shows for the first time that aid for agroecological projects is less than 5% of agricultural aid and less than 0.5% of total UK aid budget since 2010. Since 1 January 2010, no funds at all have been directed at or been committed to projects with the main focus on development or promotion of agroecological practices. Minor funds have been directed at projects which include some activities promoting agroecology at the most basic level of resource efficiency (e.g., conservation agriculture). By largely supporting industrial and Green Revolution agriculture, UK Aid priorities contribute very little to the transition towards social-ecological sustainability in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Full article

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Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Title: How can Traditional Agroecological Knowledge Contribute to an Agroecological Transition? The Case of Conect-e Platform
Authors: Laura Calvet-Mir 1,2, Petra Benyei 2, Laura Aceituno-Mata 3, Manuel Pardo de Santayana 4, Maria Carrascosa 3, Daniel López-García 5, Antonio Perdomo-Molina 3,6 and Victoria Reyes-García 2,5
1 Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3), Universitat Oberta de Catalunya
2 Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
3 Red de Semillas “Resembrando e Intercambiando”
4 Departamento de Biología (Botánica), Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
5 Universidad Pablo de Olavide
6 Universidad de la Laguna
7 Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats (ICREA)
Abstract: Traditional agroecological knowledge (TAeK) refers to locally-adapted knowledge systems that have been developed by farmers and other place-based communities around the world through their interaction with nature, which contributes to maintaining environmental and culturally sensitive food systems (Reyes-García et al. 2018). TAeK systems encompass knowledge, practices, and beliefs related to the management of agricultural landscapes and agroecosystem elements (e.g., knowledge on storage and culinary characteristics of landraces). The role that these knowledge systems play in agroecological transition has not been deeply considered. However, some authors (e.g., Guzmán et al. 2013) highlighted that one of the threats to this transition is the erosion of TAeK, pointing out that not only ecological but also socio-cultural and political dimensions of agroecology challenge the transition (Guzmán et al. 2016). Here, we explore how TAeK can contribute to an agroecological transition. Specifically, we analyze CONECT-e (www.conecte.es), a Wikipedia-like citizen science initiative, launched in March 2017 and aiming at gathering and sharing traditional ecological knowledge in Spain (including traditional ecological knowledge on landraces). This contribution is twofold. First, we elaborate how CONECT-e contributes to the socio-cultural dimension of agroecological transition by compiling and digitalizing TAeK on landraces to avoid its erosion and by encouraging the exchange of this knowledge among citizens from diverse origins and ages. Then, we address how CONECT-e contributes to agroecological transition political dimension, by protecting TAeK under a digital commons framework (Reyes-García et al. 2018), to contest misappropriation/enclosure of landraces. In that sense, the content of the platform is protected under a copyleft license, a way to guarantee non-exclusion by allowing reproduction and exchange of intellectual products such as software code, art or information. Moreover, the project has been an opportunity to work together and strengthen alliances between different actors, such as the Spanish Seed Network (Red de Semillas “Resembrando e Intercambiando”), several ethnobiology research teams and rural Agrarian Schools. The first year’s assessment of CONECT-e implementation indicates that an extensive amount of TAeK has been gathered (1527 entries on 430 different landraces), making CONECT-e a promising platform to trigger agroecological transition via recovering TAeK and making it accessible to all the society, avoiding enclosure processes.
Guzmán, G.I.; López-García, D.; Román, L.; Alonso, A.M. Participatory Action Research for an Agroecological Transition in Spain. In Agroecology: A Transdisciplinary, Participatory and Action-oriented Approach, Méndez, V.E., Bacon, C.M., Cohen, R., Gliessman, S.R., Eds.; CRC Press: Boca Ratón, FL, USA, 2016; pp. 140–160.
Guzmán, G.I.; López-García, D.; Román, L.; Alonso, A.M. Participatory action research in agroecology: Building local organic food networks in Spain. Agroecol. Sustain. Food Syst. 2013, 37, 127–146.
Reyes-García, V.; Benyei, P.; Calvet-Mir, L. Traditional Agricultural knowledge as commons. In Routledge Handbook of Food as a Commons, Vivero-Pol, J.L., Ferrando, T., de Schutter, O., Mattei, U., Eds.; Routledge: Abingdon, UK, 2018.

Title: Exploring the Connections between Agroecological Practices and Ecosystem Services: A SYSTEMATIC Literature Review
Palomo-Campesino, S., González, J.A., Ravera, F. and García-Llorente, M
Abstract: Global change, land use intensification, and the increasing worldwide population are threatening the future of the agroecosystems and food security. Within this context, agroecology emerged within political and scientific arenas as a socially equitable and ecologically sustainable approach that considers the full dimension of the food system, form production, processing and marketing, to economic and political decisions. This work aims to explore how agroecology has merged with the ecosystem services framework in scientific literature. We performed a systematic literature review through the Web of Science to explore the connections between sustainable agricultural practices and the supply of ecosystem services, focusing on papers including empirical data. In our search we combined terms related with agricultural practices (e.g., agroecology, organic agriculture, alternative agriculture, permaculture, etc.) and terms related with the ecosystems services supplied by agroecosystems. A total of 632 scientific articles were found in the initial search, 191 of which were selected for the analysis after in-deep review. Most of the papers used a biophysical approach to evaluate ecosystem services (71%), with regulating (99%) and provisioning (41%) services being more frequently analysed than cultural services (13%). Specifically, the ecosystem services most frequently analysed were pest control (59%), soil fertility (40%) and food (39%). Regarding agricultural practices, the most frequently analysed were the absence of chemical inputs (72%), the degree of landscape complexity (35%), and crop rotations (32%). Remarkably, very few papers (14%) included socio-economic and governance issues, which are an essential part of the agroecology framework. Finally, we identify research gaps and provide insights on where future research should focus in order to promote a transition towards sustainable agrarian social-ecological systems that respect human rights, support rural development and enhance human well-being.
Keywords: agricultural landscapes; agroecosystems; agroecological practices; ecosystem services; systematic review

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