Traditional agricultural systems are receiving increasing attention at the international level due to their multifunctional role. The Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) programme of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) aims to identify agricultural systems of global importance, preserve landscape, agrobiodiversity and traditional knowledge and apply the principles of dynamic conservation to promote sustainable development. Biodiversity associated to traditional agricultural practices is particularly important, especially in difficult environments, like traditional oases, for ensuring food and nutrition to local communities. We documented landscape and biological diversity associated with traditional agricultural practices in three traditional oases in Tunisia, through a landscape analysis based on land-use survey, and an assessment of cultivated species. Results show that the landscape structure is dominated by agricultural land uses and characterized by a high level of diversification. Agrobiodiversity is high: we identified 20 varieties of date palm, 21 species of fruit trees, 21 vegetable species and two fodder crops. Results highlighted that traditional oases, as other agroforestry and agricultural heritage systems, continue to play a crucial role in maintaining genetic resources and agrobiodiversity. Farmers who, all over the world, still cultivate applying traditional practices are the main actors that practice a real conservation of genetic resources and diversity by maintaining traditional cultivars and a diversified landscape structure. Our methodology, based on the combined assessment of land uses and agrobiodiversity, can be replicated in other agricultural heritage systems to evaluate and measure possible transformations and identify the best strategies for their preservation.
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