Special Issue "Agriculture, Landscape, Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity: New Challenges for Sustainable Development"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Use of the Environment and Resources".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2019).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Alejandro Rescia
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Biodiversity, Ecology and Evolution, Faculty of Biological Sciences, Complutense University of Madrid, 28040 Madrid, Spain
Interests: landscape ecology; social-ecological resilience; biodiversity conservation; spatial analysis; agricultural landscape
Dr. Samir Sayadi
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Agri-Food Chain Economics, Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IFAPA), 18080 Granada, Spain
Interests: landscape and ecosystem services valuation, multifunctionality of agriculture; sustainable rural development; sustainable agri-food value chain and labels; new consumers/social demands and concerns; sustainable tourism

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The future of agriculture and rural areas, and its role in sustainable development, is a topic of ongoing social, political, and scientific debate. Greater public concern with the importance of avoiding environmental problems related with farming activities, and the need for maintaining rural communities have probably been the main driving forces in this matter. Therefore, agriculture is, not only considered a provider of food and fibers, but there is also a growing social concern regarding its environmental, social, and territorial dimensions. Rural area multifunctionality arises as a future path for farming systems with an emphasis on the production of appropriate market goods and non-market or public goods and ecosystem services that are increasingly demanded by the public. Among the public goods provided by farming systems, we should consider how they have shaped the landscape. Indeed, the advance of the agricultural frontier has replaced a wide variety of natural ecosystems and shaped diverse agricultural landscapes in rural spaces. Replacements of natural systems using farming systems and the configuration of heterogeneous agricultural landscapes were modifying the function, and consequently the structure of agroecosystems worldwide, and therefore sustainable provision for society, in terms of quantity and quality, of all these goods and services. This situation has created tensions between the conservation of natural ecosystems, biodiversity, food production, human well-being and economic profitability. In this context, a new analytical framework is needed for designing agricultural, environmental, and rural development policies to promote sustainability and to maximize social welfare. For this Special Issue, we welcome conceptual and empirical studies to provide possible solutions that minimize the adverse effects of this conflicting situation, and, eventually, to mitigate the potential effects of climate change. Specifically, we welcome papers focused on, or dealing with, the topics listed in the keywords.

Prof. Dr. Alejandro Rescia
Dr. Samir Sayadi
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • Rural landscapes and agriculture multifunctionality
  • Landscape and ecosystem services assessment
  • Social-ecological and spatial resilience
  • Spatial planning, agricultural management and sustainable development
  • Conservation biological control and landscape context
  • Agro-environmental and sustainability indicators
  • Sustainable agri-food value chain and labels
  • Dynamic models and social-ecological scenario planning of agricultural landscapes
  • Agricultural landscape heterogeneity for production and conservation
  • Bio-economy and circular economy

Published Papers (37 papers)

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Open AccessArticle
A Developed Framework for the Multi-District Ecological Compensation Standards Integrating Ecosystem Service Zoning in an Urban Area in China
Sustainability 2019, 11(18), 4876; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11184876 - 06 Sep 2019
Abstract
Ecological compensation is an effective means to adjust relationships among stakeholders in order to conserve and/or sustainably use ecosystem services. The current ecological compensation standards (ECS) do not well reflect the differences in ecological, social, and economic development. Thus, we took a typical [...] Read more.
Ecological compensation is an effective means to adjust relationships among stakeholders in order to conserve and/or sustainably use ecosystem services. The current ecological compensation standards (ECS) do not well reflect the differences in ecological, social, and economic development. Thus, we took a typical urbanization area (the Suzhou–Wuxi–Changzhou region) in China as an example, because of its prominent contradiction between rapid socio-economic development and fragile ecosystem. Combined with the ecological, economic, and social conditions, the methods of ecosystem service value (ESV) evaluation, cluster analysis, and scenario analysis were used to propose an optimized spatial zoning method and optimal development scenario. Then, the ECS by different zones were determined by using ESV assessment, cost-benefit analysis, and contingent valuation method. The results showed that (1) the regions were divided into two categories, with a total of four zones: ESV output areas (synergetic development zones (SDZ) and ecological conservation zones (ECZ)) and ESV input areas (ecological degradation zones (EDegZ) and economic development zones (EDevZ)); (2) among five scenarios, the best development mode in the future was the protection and development scenario, which was consistent with the existing planning; and (3) the ECS for the SDZ should be paid about 1.94 billion Yuan/year, the ECZ should be paid about 0.80 billion Yuan/year, the ECS for the EDegZ should pay about 2.20–2.25 million Yuan/year, and the EDevZ should pay about 0.06–7.33 million Yuan/year. By feasibility analysis, the ESV input areas were fully capable of inter-regional compensation, which could promote the effective purchase of ecological services. The developed evaluation framework of ECS in this study can accurately provide a scientific basis for the determination of ecological compensation regulations and policies in the future. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Ecological and Economic Sustainability in Olive Groves with Different Irrigation Management and Levels of Erosion: A Case Study
Sustainability 2019, 11(17), 4681; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11174681 - 28 Aug 2019
Abstract
In the last 50 years, both the agricultural labour force and irrigated land area have increased almost eightfold in Spain. The main objective of irrigation, in the short term, is to increase agricultural production. However, in the long term, the environmental externalities of [...] Read more.
In the last 50 years, both the agricultural labour force and irrigated land area have increased almost eightfold in Spain. The main objective of irrigation, in the short term, is to increase agricultural production. However, in the long term, the environmental externalities of irrigation and its direct relationship with soil erosion processes are more uncertain and still poorly studied. In this study, in an olive-growing region of Andalusia, Spain, the variation of several soil parameters related to irrigation and erosion levels was analysed. The results showed that irrigation, while increasing the productive level of the olive groves, entails a progressive alteration of the soil, modifying physical aspects (greater compaction and humidity of the soil together with lower gravel content, porosity and soil weight) and chemical aspects (reduction of the organic matter of the soil and the content of nitrates) that can aggravate the consequences of the erosive processes. In the long term, the productive benefit attributed to irrigation could be unsustainable from an ecological and, consequently, economic point of view. In addition, the lack of sustainability of olive irrigation agroecosystems could be exacerbated by the future restrictive impacts of climate change on water resources in Mediterranean environments. This situation demands spatial planning and alternative management based on soil conservation and rational and efficient forms of irrigation to ensure the sustainability of olive groves and their economic viability. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Inorganic Waste Management in Greenhouse Agriculture in Almeria (SE Spain): Towards a Circular System in Intensive Horticultural Production
Sustainability 2019, 11(14), 3782; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11143782 - 10 Jul 2019
Abstract
The concept of circular economy, whose model is based on three main pillars: (i) design out waste and pollution; (ii) keep products and materials in use; and (iii) regenerate natural systems, has recently been applied to different sectors. This concept is directly related [...] Read more.
The concept of circular economy, whose model is based on three main pillars: (i) design out waste and pollution; (ii) keep products and materials in use; and (iii) regenerate natural systems, has recently been applied to different sectors. This concept is directly related to bioeconomy. Spain implemented its own strategy in bioeconomy in 2016, affecting all economic activities, agriculture included. In line with this, one of the most important agricultural sectors is the greenhouse horticulture of Almería (SE Spain). This region has experienced deep changes in the last 40 years, and has become one of the most efficient agro-industrial complexes in the world. This rapid growth has brought sustainability problems such as pollution, water overuse, or inadequate waste management. Several studies have undertaken organic waste reuse or minimization, but an important lack of knowledge exists regarding the inorganic fraction. One of the goals of the REINWASTE project is to find solutions for this problem. Therefore, an extensive legal framework has been consulted and an in-depth study of the steps in greenhouse production with the associated residues has been carried out. Additionally, information from experts and stakeholders has been registered, resulting a list of Best Available Technologies (BATs) to prevent and minimize inorganic waste generation. This article highlights the intensive greenhouse horticulture from Almería efforts to reach circularity by closing the loop with inorganic waste. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Governance Discourses Reflecting Tensions in a Multifunctional Land Use System in Decay; Tradition Versus Modernity in the Portuguese Montado
Sustainability 2019, 11(12), 3363; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11123363 - 18 Jun 2019
Abstract
The montado is a silvo pastoral system, and the dominant land-use in the region of Alentejo (Portugal). It bears high nature, socio-economic, and landscape values, shaping the strong cultural identity of the region. Despite these values, it has been under decay over the [...] Read more.
The montado is a silvo pastoral system, and the dominant land-use in the region of Alentejo (Portugal). It bears high nature, socio-economic, and landscape values, shaping the strong cultural identity of the region. Despite these values, it has been under decay over the last decades, indicating the inefficiency of current governance strategies. In this paper, we argue how three main discourses can be found that underpin different governance strategies in the montado: The heritage discourse, the modern production discourse, and the land stewardship discourse. These discourses frame farmers’ decisions, though not always explicitly. The discourse analysis is grounded on an analysis of the relevant literature and research results from diverse projects, including an analysis of media representation of the montado since the 1990s, participatory observations, and 30 in-depth interviews with key stakeholders. Each of the three discourses identified are characterized in terms of key farming developments and defining elements, their time-scopes, the ways in which they are perceived by society, their measures of success, and underpinning institutions and power mechanisms. We argue that these discourses co-exist today, and this is a cause of increased tensions in montado governance strategies, hindering more effective and sustainable potential alternatives for the system. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Land Use and Land Cover Scenarios for Optimum Water Yield and Sediment Retention Ecosystem Services in Klong U-Tapao Watershed, Songkhla, Thailand
Sustainability 2019, 11(10), 2895; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11102895 - 22 May 2019
Abstract
The Klong U-Tapao watershed is the main source of water supply for agriculture, industry, and household consumption of the Songkhla province and it frequently contributes serious problems to lowland areas, particularly flood and soil erosion. Therefore, land use and land cover (LULC) scenario [...] Read more.
The Klong U-Tapao watershed is the main source of water supply for agriculture, industry, and household consumption of the Songkhla province and it frequently contributes serious problems to lowland areas, particularly flood and soil erosion. Therefore, land use and land cover (LULC) scenario identification for optimum water yield and sediment retention ecosystem services are necessary. In this study, LULC data in 2010 and 2017 were firstly classified from Landsat data using random forests classifiers, and they were then used to predict LULC change during 2018 –2024 under three different scenarios by CLUE-S model. Later, actual LULC data in 2017 and predictive LULC data of three scenarios were further used to estimate water yield and sediment retention services under the InVEST and LULC scenario for optimum water yield and sediment retention ecosystem services were finally identified using the ecosystem service change index (ESCI). The result of the study showed the major increasing areas of LULC types during 2010–2017 were rubber plantation and urban and built-up area while the major decreasing areas of LULC classes were evergreen forest and miscellaneous land. In addition, the derived LULC prediction of three different scenarios could provide realistic results as expected. Likewise, water yield and sediment retention estimation of three different scenarios could also provide expected results according to characteristics of scenarios’ definitions and climates, soil and terrain, and LULC factors. Finally, LULC of Scenario II was chosen for optimum water yield and sediment retention ecosystem services. In conclusion, the integration of remote sensing technology with advanced classification methods and geospatial models can be used as proficient tools to provide geospatial data on water yield and sediment retention ecosystem services from different scenarios. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Incorporating Forests, Agriculture, and Energy Consumption in the Framework of the Environmental Kuznets Curve: A Dynamic Panel Data Approach
Sustainability 2019, 11(9), 2688; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11092688 - 11 May 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
Based on country-specific panel data from 1990–2014 for 86 different countries, we quantify the effects of forests and agricultural land in CO2 emissions, using the framework of the Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC). The results from the dynamic panel data method reveal that [...] Read more.
Based on country-specific panel data from 1990–2014 for 86 different countries, we quantify the effects of forests and agricultural land in CO2 emissions, using the framework of the Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC). The results from the dynamic panel data method reveal that forests are an important determinant in reducing CO2 emissions globally, but the effects vary by region. All else constant, we estimate a 0.11% decline in CO2 emissions per 1% increase in the forest area globally. However, the agricultural sector is found to be a true CO2 emitter. Our study provides additional empirical evidence for the roles of forests in regulating atmospheric CO2, further reinforcing the importance of forests in global climate change policies. Full article
Open AccessArticle
The Importance of Cultural Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity for Landscape Visitors in the Biosphere Reserve Swabian Alb (Germany)
Sustainability 2019, 11(9), 2650; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11092650 - 09 May 2019
Abstract
Agricultural landscapes play an important role in providing different ecosystem services. However, the current trend of land use intensification in Central Europe involves the risk of trade-offs between them. Since cultural ecosystem services (CES) are less tangible, they are often underrepresented in landscape [...] Read more.
Agricultural landscapes play an important role in providing different ecosystem services. However, the current trend of land use intensification in Central Europe involves the risk of trade-offs between them. Since cultural ecosystem services (CES) are less tangible, they are often underrepresented in landscape management decisions. To highlight this subject we evaluated CES in agro-ecosystems in the biosphere reserve Swabian Alb (Southwestern Germany). We conducted a survey among visitors to investigate their usage of the landscape, their perception as well as valuation of CES, and interrelations with biodiversity. The results show the presence of various types of usage related to cultural services, the most prominent being recreation and landscape aesthetics. People declared a high affinity to nature and biodiversity awareness. A participatory mapping task revealed their appreciation of biodiverse and ecologically relevant places such as protected species-rich grasslands, traditional orchards and hedgerows. Several socio-demographic differences emerged, e.g., between age classes and local/non-local visitors. We conclude that our exemplary methodical approach was successful in capturing the CES and their link to biodiversity in the investigated biosphere reserve, while identifying priority fields of action concerning the integration of CES into management and planning of cultural landscapes, ultimately serving as guides for local decision-makers. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
The Role of Cultural Landscapes in the Delivery of Provisioning Ecosystem Services in Protected Areas
Sustainability 2019, 11(9), 2471; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11092471 - 26 Apr 2019
Abstract
The aim of this paper is to assess and highlight the significance of cultural landscapes in protected areas, considering both biodiversity and the delivery of provisioning ecosystem services. In order to do that, we analyzed 26 protected areas in Andalusia (Spain), all of [...] Read more.
The aim of this paper is to assess and highlight the significance of cultural landscapes in protected areas, considering both biodiversity and the delivery of provisioning ecosystem services. In order to do that, we analyzed 26 protected areas in Andalusia (Spain), all of them Natural or National Parks, regarding some of their ecosystem services (agriculture, livestock grazing, microclimate regulation, environmental education and tourism) and diversity of the four terrestrial vertebrate classes: amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds. A cluster analysis was also run in order to group the 26 protected areas according to their dominant landscape. The results show that protected areas dominated by dehesa (a heterogeneous system containing different states of ecological maturity), or having strong presence of olive groves, present a larger area of delivery of provisioning ecosystem services, on average. These cultural landscapes play an essential role not only for biodiversity conservation but also as providers of provisioning ecosystem services. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Monitoring of Landscape Transformations within Landscape Parks in Poland in the 21st Century
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2410; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082410 - 23 Apr 2019
Cited by 6
Abstract
One of the most problematic forms of nature protection in Poland relates to landscape parks. They include the most valuable landscapes, but the areas within the landscape park still have economic uses. Therefore, the monitoring of landscape changes within landscape parks is necessary [...] Read more.
One of the most problematic forms of nature protection in Poland relates to landscape parks. They include the most valuable landscapes, but the areas within the landscape park still have economic uses. Therefore, the monitoring of landscape changes within landscape parks is necessary in order to properly manage these forms of protection. The main objective of the study was to monitor the scale and nature of landscape transformations within the boundaries of landscape parks in Poland during the period 2000–2018 and to assess the possibility of using the landscape change index (LCI) to monitor the intensity of landscape transformations within this type of protected area. Preliminary analyses of the transformations within all landscape parks in Poland showed an upward trend, both in terms of the number of types of identified landscape changes as well as their area. In spite of the large diversity and degree of transformation in landscape parks, several dominant processes can be observed. The largest number and area of changes during each of the analyzed periods were found in transformations within forest landscapes (temporary and permanent deforestation and forest maturation), which constitute the dominant type of land cover within most of the landscape parks. In open landscapes, changes mainly relate to afforestation and natural succession in meadows, pastures, and arable land, as well as the transformation of arable land into mining areas. Twelve case studies, covering all landscape parks in Lower Silesia, have shown that the LCI is an excellent tool for monitoring the intensity of landscape changes, but it is dependent on the accuracy of the source data. The analyses confirmed that, during the study periods, the changes in all 12 Lower Silesian landscape parks were at a low level, but their particular intensification took place in the years from 2012 to 2018. The highest LCI was found in the area where a natural disaster had occurred (air tornado), which destroyed huge areas of forest in landscape parks. After changes in the forest landscape, the most frequently identified type of change in 2006–2012 was the transformation of non-forest landscapes into forest landscapes. The main reason for such changes was the expansion of forest into abandoned arable land, meadows, and pastures. The use of the Corine Land Cover database to calculate the LCI and monitor the intensity of landscape change revealed a low usability of the database for the year 2000 and a high usability for data from 2006 to 2018. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Incorporating Rarity and Accessibility Factors into the Cultural Ecosystem Services Assessment in Mountainous Areas: A Case Study in the Upper Reaches of the Minjiang River
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2203; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082203 - 12 Apr 2019
Abstract
Cultural ecosystem services (CES) are not only a key source for supporting the development of economy but also maintain the ecological security in mountainous areas. However, there are limited numbers of studies that focus on establishing the assessment model for the CES at [...] Read more.
Cultural ecosystem services (CES) are not only a key source for supporting the development of economy but also maintain the ecological security in mountainous areas. However, there are limited numbers of studies that focus on establishing the assessment model for the CES at a regional scale. We combined the topographic factors and accessibility factors to quantify the distribution of CES and tested the approach with data on road and topography in the upper reaches of the Minjiang River. The results showed that the areas with high CES were located in the southwestern part of the study area, where it was convenient traffic and rare topography. Results from our approach were likely to support the development of local tourism industry because the distribution of CES was consistent with current hotspots for scenic spots. Meanwhile, we found that the area with high rarity and low accessibility should improve accessibility in order to enhance the capacity of CES. The assumptions applied in our approach highlighted the impacts of complex topography on CES, which could be suitable for the area with a lack of data. Moreover, our approach provided an effective way to assess CES for creating management strategies and enhancing capacity in mountainous areas. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Remote Observation in Habitat Suitability Changes for Waterbirds in the West Songnen Plain, China
Sustainability 2019, 11(6), 1552; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11061552 - 14 Mar 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Being one of the most important habitats for waterbirds, China’s West Songnen Plain has experienced substantial damage to its ecosystem, especially the loss and degradation of wetlands and grasslands due to anthropogenic disturbances and climate change. These occurrences have led to an obvious [...] Read more.
Being one of the most important habitats for waterbirds, China’s West Songnen Plain has experienced substantial damage to its ecosystem, especially the loss and degradation of wetlands and grasslands due to anthropogenic disturbances and climate change. These occurrences have led to an obvious decrease in waterbird species and overall population size. Periodic and timely monitoring of changes in habitat suitability and understanding the potential driving factors for waterbirds are essential for maintaining regional ecological security. In this study, land cover changes from 2000 to 2015 in this eco-sensitive plain were examined using Landsat images and an object-based classification method. Four groups of environmental factors, including human disturbance, water situation, food availability, and shelter safety, characterized by remote sensing data were selected to develop a habitat suitability index (HSI) for assessing habitat suitability for waterbirds. HSI was further classified into four grades (optimum, good, general, and poor), and their spatiotemporal patterns were documented from 2000 to 2015. Our results revealed that cropland expansion and wetland shrinkage were the dominant land cover changes. Waterbird habitat areas in the optimum grade experienced a sharp decline by 7195 km2. The habitat area in good suitability experienced reduction at a change rate of −8.64%, from 38,672 km2 to 35,331 km2. In addition, waterbird habitats in the general and poor grades increased overall by 10.31%. More specifically, the total habitat areas with optimum suitable grade, in five national nature reserves over the study region, decreased by 12.21%, while habitat areas with poor suitable grade increased by 3.89%. Changes in habitat suitability could be largely attributed to the increase in human disturbance, including agricultural cultivation from wetlands and grasslands and the expansion of built-up lands. Our findings indicate that additional attention should be directed towards reducing human impact on habitat suitability for sustainable ecosystems. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Recovering-Innovation-Exportation Triangle as an Instrument for Sustainable Development: Proposal for Peruvian Agro-Export Development
Sustainability 2019, 11(4), 1149; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11041149 - 21 Feb 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
This study aims to investigate one of the most traditional Peruvian income generators: the agricultural sector, addressing specifically endogenous fruits. Based on sales data related to local and external markets, it is shown that nowadays farmers from several regions and towns have changed [...] Read more.
This study aims to investigate one of the most traditional Peruvian income generators: the agricultural sector, addressing specifically endogenous fruits. Based on sales data related to local and external markets, it is shown that nowadays farmers from several regions and towns have changed the practice of sowing endogenous fruits for the trading of lands and the sowing of other types of products. This has caused the farmer’s economic and social recoil within the agricultural sector. We restrict our study to the case of lucuma (Pouteria Lucuma), an endogenous fruit possessing excellent nutritional properties and exotic flavor that can be used for the production of a variety of products. These features make it an exportable product with great acceptance in international markets, but mainly in its dehydrated form. Therefore, in order to stimulate farmers’ exporting opportunities, it is necessary to transform their products by employing clean technologies that, at the same time, reduce production costs. In this sense, we propose a set of strategies to revitalize the sowing of lucuma in regions where it used to be cultivated, as well as to promote a sustainable business program based on the use of an innovative proposal for hybrid solar dehydration process (dehydration process that preserves the organoleptic properties, which is different from other processes). This will assist the commercialization of farmers’ products in local and international markets, as well as complying with the quality standards required for agro-export. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Supermarket-Led Development and the Neglect of Traditional Food Value Chains: Reflections on Indonesia’s Agri-Food System Transformation
Sustainability 2019, 11(2), 498; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11020498 - 18 Jan 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
The rapid expansion of modern food retail encapsulated in the so-called ‘supermarket revolution’ is often portrayed as a pivotal driving force in the modernization of agri-food systems in the Global South. Based on fieldwork conducted on horticulture value chains in West Java and [...] Read more.
The rapid expansion of modern food retail encapsulated in the so-called ‘supermarket revolution’ is often portrayed as a pivotal driving force in the modernization of agri-food systems in the Global South. Based on fieldwork conducted on horticulture value chains in West Java and South Sulawesi, this paper explores this phenomenon and the concerted efforts that government and corporate actors undertake with regard to agri-food value chain interventions and market modernization in Indonesia. The paper argues that after more than 15 years of ‘supermarket revolution’ in Indonesia, traditional food retail appears not to be in complete demise, but rather adaptive and resilient to its modern competitors. The analysis of local manifestations of supermarket-led agricultural development suggests that traditional markets can offer certain advantages for farmers over supermarket-driven value chains. The paper further identifies and discusses two areas that have so far been neglected by research and policymaking and which warrant further investigation: (i) the simultaneous transformations in traditional food value chains and their relation to modern markets, and (ii) the social and environmental performances of modern vis-à-vis traditional food value chains. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Conciliate Agriculture with Landscape and Biodiversity Conservation: A Role-Playing Game to Explore Trade-Offs among Ecosystem Services through Social Learning
Sustainability 2019, 11(2), 310; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11020310 - 09 Jan 2019
Cited by 3
Abstract
A key challenge in the management of ecosystem services involves weighing up the trade-offs between these ecosystem services and who benefits from them. In mountainous zones, new trade-offs between ecosystem services emerge due to shifts in farming practices and their consequences on the [...] Read more.
A key challenge in the management of ecosystem services involves weighing up the trade-offs between these ecosystem services and who benefits from them. In mountainous zones, new trade-offs between ecosystem services emerge due to shifts in farming practices and their consequences on the landscapes (land abandonment and intensification), which is a source of debate and controversy between local stakeholders. To help stakeholders tackle the challenge of decision-making around trade-offs, this study tested the use of a role-playing game based on the concept of ecosystem services to facilitate the process through social learning. The game SECOLOZ was designed in cooperation with local stakeholders to explore the impacts of three farming practices (rock removal, ploughing of meadow, and pasturing) on trade-offs among ecosystem services. The game was played with various local stakeholders in the Mont Lozère, France. We found that this experience increased awareness of interdependencies, encouraged mutual understanding, improved the ability to deal with uncertainties, and fostered the exploration of innovative methods of governance. The outcomes confirm that the ecosystem service concept can be successfully used in a role-playing game process and that it significantly contributes to social learning. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Accounting for Regional Heterogeneity of Agricultural Sustainability in Spain
Sustainability 2019, 11(2), 299; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11020299 - 09 Jan 2019
Cited by 4
Abstract
Agriculture is increasingly facing major challenges such as climate change, scarcity of natural resources and changing societal demands. To tackle these challenges there is a pressing need to evolve towards more sustainable agricultural practices. As a result, sustainability stands among the most relevant [...] Read more.
Agriculture is increasingly facing major challenges such as climate change, scarcity of natural resources and changing societal demands. To tackle these challenges there is a pressing need to evolve towards more sustainable agricultural practices. As a result, sustainability stands among the most relevant topics in agricultural research worldwide, and Spain is no exception. Agricultural sustainability has been analysed in Spain mainly at a national and farm scale. This contribution aims at assessing agricultural sustainability in Spain at a provincial scale, allowing the scrutiny of regional variability induced by the existing differences in extension, relevance and policies of the agricultural activity at this level. The sustainability assessment performed is based on a selection of twenty-two indicators covering the three classical dimensions of sustainability—environmental, economic and social. The methodology implemented is based on normalising and aggregating selected indicators according to three composite indicators for the fifty Spanish provinces. Numerous statistical and cartographic sources are used. Cluster analysis establishes four different groups of provinces according to their performance in terms of agricultural sustainability. Higher economic sustainability in provincial agriculture seems to be mostly associated with more intensive use of agricultural labour and agricultural machinery and faster wealth growth. Social sustainability seems to be linked to greater diversification of economic activities and to quality productions under Protected Designations of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indications (PGI). Best environmental sustainability is achieved where extension of agricultural land is larger, less agricultural area is burned, and carbon stock and sequestration by agricultural ecosystems is better. It is expected that the results could improve the policy coherence and decision-making for more sustainable agricultural systems in Spanish regions. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Terraced Landscapes and Hydrogeological Risk. Effects of Land Abandonment in Cinque Terre (Italy) during Severe Rainfall Events
Sustainability 2019, 11(1), 235; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11010235 - 04 Jan 2019
Cited by 5
Abstract
During 25 October 2011, an extremely intense rainfall event occurred in Eastern Liguria and Northern Tuscany. Severe damages were registered in the Monterosso and Vernazza basins, located in the famous area of Cinque Terre, which have been affected by hundreds of landslides, mud [...] Read more.
During 25 October 2011, an extremely intense rainfall event occurred in Eastern Liguria and Northern Tuscany. Severe damages were registered in the Monterosso and Vernazza basins, located in the famous area of Cinque Terre, which have been affected by hundreds of landslides, mud flows, and erosions. The main feature of the Cinque Terre landscape is the presence of terraced cultivations on steep slopes facing the sea. The area represents a remarkable cultural landscape, is a National Park, and is included in the World Heritage List of the UNESCO. This work aims to analyze the effect of abandoned terraced land on hydrogeological risks and in landslide prevention, by comparing what happened in Cinque Terre to other experiences presented in scientific literature. The cessation of maintenance of dry stone terraces due to the crisis of traditional agriculture was identified as the main cause of failure during the heavy rainfall event. However, we found some contrasting and, in some cases, unexpected results in the literature regarding the effects of the vegetation that develops on abandoned terraces. This paper compares different results in order to better understand what the future of terraced landscapes is and which are the best management strategies for such complex and fragile territories. In particular, where they represent a cultural heritage and a resource for the rural economy. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Water Conservation Scenic Spots in China: Developing the Tourism Potential of Hydraulic Projects and Water Resources
Sustainability 2018, 10(12), 4509; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10124509 - 29 Nov 2018
Cited by 1
Abstract
The reservoir-related tourism industry has been developed for leisure purposes since the 1970s and has gained popularity worldwide. To promote reservoir-related tourism in China, the Chinese government launched a “top-down” project titled “Water Conservation Scenic Spot” (WCSS) in 2001. However, because of the [...] Read more.
The reservoir-related tourism industry has been developed for leisure purposes since the 1970s and has gained popularity worldwide. To promote reservoir-related tourism in China, the Chinese government launched a “top-down” project titled “Water Conservation Scenic Spot” (WCSS) in 2001. However, because of the lack of reasonable planning, innovative ideas, and effective governance, there are some problems with WCSS constraining its development. To deal with those problems, it is necessary to have a holistic understanding of the WCSS situation. This study analyses the origin, status, opportunities, and challenges of WCSS development in China. The results show a trend of periodic increase in the number of WCSSs between 2001 and 2016, and WCSS development is unbalanced regarding regions and types. Moreover, the main issues for the WCSS include the failure to follow WCSS guidelines in practice, weak awareness of the scientific educational function, monotonous planning and construction, a lack of cultural preservation, insufficient funding, weak marketing, damaging of natural resources, destruction of clusters of animals and plants, land surface erosion, and landscape pollution. These adverse effects can be alleviated by strengthening supervision and fostering balanced development, promoting education and protecting cultural resources, distributing funding and enlarging popularity, controlling the amount of tourism, and avoiding overexpansion. Overall, the findings of this study can encourage the development of WCSSs in the future and are of significance in supporting the reservoir-related tourism industry. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Spatial Variation and Factors Impacting Grassland Circulation Price in Inner Mongolia, China
Sustainability 2018, 10(12), 4381; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10124381 - 23 Nov 2018
Abstract
As the circulation of grassland use rights in China increases, relatively little is known about the factors that influence circulation price. This paper examines the spatial distribution of grassland circulation prices and the impact of various attributes on grassland circulation prices in Inner [...] Read more.
As the circulation of grassland use rights in China increases, relatively little is known about the factors that influence circulation price. This paper examines the spatial distribution of grassland circulation prices and the impact of various attributes on grassland circulation prices in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region (IMAR). Spatial autocorrelation tests and quantile regression methods are applied to data from an online land-circulation website covering the period from January to October 2017. The spatial analysis found that grassland circulation price does vary greatly throughout IMAR but that no significant spatial autocorrelation is evident. The quantile regression analysis revealed significant, though varied, quantile effects across the price distribution indicating that local market structures, strong demand for grazing land in desert steppe, high demand of poor herders for smaller plots, and high demand of richer herders for larger plots all play an important role in determining circulation prices. These nuanced findings should enable policy makers, grassland users, and other grassland actors to better understand how grassland price is determined with respect to a range of factors across the quantiles of price as well as the spatial pattern of price characteristics. This information and understanding are a crucial step in improving grassland circulation. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Revising Yield and Equivalence Factors of Ecological Footprints Based on Land-Use Conversion
Sustainability 2018, 10(11), 4107; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10114107 - 08 Nov 2018
Abstract
In the current ecological footprint (EF) calculations, the parameters of built-up land are set as equal to those of cropland, based on the assumption that built-up land is totally converted from cropland. However, built-up land may be derived from other types of land [...] Read more.
In the current ecological footprint (EF) calculations, the parameters of built-up land are set as equal to those of cropland, based on the assumption that built-up land is totally converted from cropland. However, built-up land may be derived from other types of land use. With the expansion of built-up area as a result of urbanization, the yield and equivalence factors of built-up land are becoming increasingly important in the EF calculation. The objective of this study was to evaluate the influence of this assumption on EF calculation. In this study, the proportions of different land types converted into built-up land were evaluated based on actual land-use conversion in two urbanized areas of Yunnan Province and Kunming City from 1980 to 2010 in the ArcGIS platform. Then, the parameters of built-up land were calculated by an area-weighting approach with the proportions. The results showed the following: (1) In both cases, the EF of Yunnan Province and Kunming City were greater than their biocapacities (BC), indicating that they were in unsustainable states. (2) The EF and BC of the two studied cases were reduced to varying degrees because the yield and equivalence factors of built-up land from land-use conversion are less than cropland factors. As the proportion of the built-up land area in Kunming City was larger than that in Yunnan Province, the reduced proportion of the EF and BC of Kunming City is greater than that of Yunnan Province. (3) The proportion of built-up land converted from cropland has a significantly positive correlation with EF and BC. Therefore, it is of great significance to revise the yield and equivalence factors of built-up land using actual land-use conversions in highly urbanized areas. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Ecosystem Services and Their Relationships in the Grain-for-Green Programme—A Case Study of Duolun County in Inner Mongolia, China
Sustainability 2018, 10(11), 4036; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10114036 - 03 Nov 2018
Abstract
Grassland restoration projects are currently being implemented to mitigate human disturbance to the natural environment and reduce grassland degradation. China’s Grain-for-Green Programme (GFGP), including one project implemented in Duolun County, China, in 2000, has significantly improved the overall ecological health of this region. [...] Read more.
Grassland restoration projects are currently being implemented to mitigate human disturbance to the natural environment and reduce grassland degradation. China’s Grain-for-Green Programme (GFGP), including one project implemented in Duolun County, China, in 2000, has significantly improved the overall ecological health of this region. Using a modeling approach, this study quantified changes in four ecosystem services (ESs), including Net Primary Production (NPP), soil conservation (SC), water yield (WY), and sandstorm prevention (SP), in Duolun County between 2000 and 2016. We found the total NPP, water yield, and soil conservation increased by 80.44%, 248.2%, and 12.2%, respectively, during this period, while the sandstorm prevention decreased by 55.9%. Unlike other areas of GFGP implementation, the improvement of the ecological environment in Duolun County is largely attributed to the increased of vegetation coverage (88%) instead of land use circulation (12%). We found the grassland is a factor that reduces the trade-off while this effect was related with the grassland coverage. Future policies should be based on the mechanisms of vegetation underlying the ESs change and the relationships of ESs in order to achieve sustainable provision of ESs. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Operationalizing Sustainability as a Safe Policy Space
Sustainability 2018, 10(10), 3682; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10103682 - 15 Oct 2018
Cited by 1
Abstract
It is possible to frame sustainability as occurring when the global or local system is within a set of limits and boundaries, such as the concept of safe operating spaces within planetary boundaries. However, such framings, whilst highly useful conceptually, have been difficult [...] Read more.
It is possible to frame sustainability as occurring when the global or local system is within a set of limits and boundaries, such as the concept of safe operating spaces within planetary boundaries. However, such framings, whilst highly useful conceptually, have been difficult to translate into operation, especially in the development of policies. Here we show how it is possible to define a safe operating space, bounded by sets of constraints. These constraints can be of a variety of forms (e.g., income, or biodiversity), and, importantly, they need not all be converted to a single common metric such as money. The challenge is to identify a set of policy options that define the “safe policy space” which maintains the system within the safe operating space defined by boundaries. A formal methodology, Co-Viability Analysis (CVA), can be used to do this. This provides a coherent framework to operationalize sustainability and has a number of extra advantages. First, defining a safe policy space allows for a political choice of which policies and so is not prescriptive—such as would be the case if a single policy option were defined. Secondly, by allowing each boundary to be defined with its own scale of measurement, it avoids the necessity of having to value natural capital or ecosystem services in financial terms. This framework, therefore, has the potential to allow decision-makers to genuinely meet the needs of their people, now and in the future. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
How to Detect Scale Effect of Ecosystem Services Supply? A Comprehensive Insight from Xilinhot in Inner Mongolia, China
Sustainability 2018, 10(10), 3654; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10103654 - 12 Oct 2018
Cited by 1
Abstract
Spatial scale plays a crucial role in the assessment and management of ecosystem services (ES), yet explicit information for identifying and understanding the scale effect on ES supply remains limited. In an attempt to detect scale effect on ES supply from a comprehensive [...] Read more.
Spatial scale plays a crucial role in the assessment and management of ecosystem services (ES), yet explicit information for identifying and understanding the scale effect on ES supply remains limited. In an attempt to detect scale effect on ES supply from a comprehensive perspective, this study developed a framework for integrating scale effect in three aspects, including individual ES patterns, pairwise ES interactions, and ecosystem service bundles (ESB). The framework was tested in Xilinhot, a prairie landscape city of Inner Mongolia, at four different levels of spatial scale. The results indicated that, most ES showed a decreasing clustering at coarser scales in terms of spatial pattern. At the same time, coarser scales resulted in fewer trade-offs and stronger synergies between pairwise ES. The identification of ESB varied greatly with scale, and this change reflected in the composition of ES variables and spatial distribution of bundles. We attributed the scale effect of the above three aspects to differences in social-ecological factors and their driving mechanisms at different scales. This comprehensive framework could support local managers to coordinate the management of multiple ES at different scales. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Landscape Change and the Sustainable Development Strategy of Different Types of Ethnic Villages Driven by the Grain for Green Program
Sustainability 2018, 10(10), 3485; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10103485 - 29 Sep 2018
Cited by 1
Abstract
The Grain for Green Program (GGP) is an important ecological project in China that was implemented to tackle serious soil erosion and forest loss for sustainable development. Investigating landscape change is an efficient way to monitor and assess the implementation of GGP. In [...] Read more.
The Grain for Green Program (GGP) is an important ecological project in China that was implemented to tackle serious soil erosion and forest loss for sustainable development. Investigating landscape change is an efficient way to monitor and assess the implementation of GGP. In this paper, 180 ethnic villages, including 36 Miao and Dong (MD) villages with combined populations of Miao people and Dong people, 65 Dong villages, and 79 Miao villages in Qiandongnan Prefecture were selected to investigate the influence of GGP on ethnic villages by evaluating the landscape changes before and after the implementation of the GGP within 1-km and 2-km distance buffers around ethnic villages. The results show that the GGP has more significant positive impacts on reforestation around Miao villages than Dong villages and MD villages because Miao villages are mostly located in higher and steeper areas, which are the focus of the GGP. Based on the analysis, a continuation of the GGP in Qiandongnan Prefecture is recommended, as it can incentivize the recovery of forest cover in steeper slopes. More attention should now be paid to the Dong villages and MD villages, which were not previously a focus of the GGP. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Community Food Growing in Parks? Assessing the Acceptability and Feasibility in Sheffield, UK
Sustainability 2018, 10(8), 2887; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10082887 - 14 Aug 2018
Cited by 3
Abstract
Urbanisation brings with it increased pressure on land and land uses, particularly green spaces. There has been considerable interest in community food growing in green spaces as part of a wide trend for gardening in the UK, which has been found to bring [...] Read more.
Urbanisation brings with it increased pressure on land and land uses, particularly green spaces. There has been considerable interest in community food growing in green spaces as part of a wide trend for gardening in the UK, which has been found to bring social, health, and well-being benefits. Such activity tends to take place in community-managed gardens and allotments. In light of the context of austerity within which local authority parks departments currently operate, this study tested the acceptability and feasibility of parks as a potential urban setting for Community Food Growing (CFG) in Sheffield, UK. Employing a combination of resident questionnaires and interviews with community groups and professionals, the study results showed localised differences in the acceptability and feasibility of CFG. Residents’ propensity to want to get involved in CFG differed by age and household composition, which, if acted on across the city, could significantly change the demographic make-up of parks-based community groups in the city. Barriers to CFG in parks were described by community groups and park managers as security and vandalism, need for resources, and undue pressure on the local authority as land-owner. We discuss the emergent questions around who is best placed to manage urban parks, particularly when the public sector is subject to stringent austerity budget measures. The paper concludes with commentary and recommendations about the importance of governance arrangements if CFG is to be included as part of the activities supported and managed in urban parks. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Assessment of Agri-Environmental Externalities in Spanish Socio-Ecological Landscapes of Olive Groves
Sustainability 2018, 10(8), 2640; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10082640 - 27 Jul 2018
Cited by 5
Abstract
Traditional agricultural systems and their spatial context constitute socio-ecological landscapes for their long co-evolutionary history. However, these systems not only generate positive but also negative agri-environmental externalities, such as soil erosion, diffuse pollution and potential wild biodiversity degradation. In this paper, we present [...] Read more.
Traditional agricultural systems and their spatial context constitute socio-ecological landscapes for their long co-evolutionary history. However, these systems not only generate positive but also negative agri-environmental externalities, such as soil erosion, diffuse pollution and potential wild biodiversity degradation. In this paper, we present a methodological approach for developing and testing indicators to estimate the effects of these externalities, especially designed to be used to help guide land-use policy changes. Our results show that the indicators proposed can recognize the different environmental situations posed by the three selected study areas, in terms of potential erosion and diffuse pollution, as well as in the actual agri-environmental externalities assessment. As expected, they also respond to the changes in land use and management introduced by two scenarios, ecological and productive. Although the erosion and diffuse pollution indicators showed a linear response, the diversity indicator showed a non-linear response, which highlights the importance of the spatial structure of landscape in agri-environmental assessment. In fact, several ecological processes can be affected by landscape spatial structure, potentially giving unexpected results both in terms of indicators and of real impact of agri-environmental externalities. Therefore, some landscape structure assessment should accompany that of externalities when considering land-use policy objectives. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Tipping Points in the Supply of Ecosystem Services of a Mountainous Watershed in Southeast Asia
Sustainability 2018, 10(7), 2418; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10072418 - 11 Jul 2018
Cited by 1
Abstract
Rubber plantations have expanded at an unprecedented rate in Southeast Asia in recent decades. This has led to a substantial decline in the supply of ecosystem services (ESS) and has reduced livelihood options and socioeconomic well-being in rural areas. We assessed the impact [...] Read more.
Rubber plantations have expanded at an unprecedented rate in Southeast Asia in recent decades. This has led to a substantial decline in the supply of ecosystem services (ESS) and has reduced livelihood options and socioeconomic well-being in rural areas. We assessed the impact of two land use scenarios on the supply of ESS in a mountainous watershed in Xishuangbanna Prefecture, People’s Republic of China. We combined time-series data derived from spatially explicit ESS models (InVEST) with a sequential, data-driven algorithm (R-method) to identify potential tipping points (TPs) in the supply of ESS under two rubber plantation expansion scenarios. TPs were defined as any situation in which the state of a system is changed through positive feedback as a result of accelerating changes. The TP analysis included hydrological, agronomical, and climate-regulation ESS, as well as multiple facets of biodiversity (habitat quality for vertebrate, invertebrate, and plant species). We identified regime shifts indicating potential tipping points, which were linked to abrupt changes in rubber yields, in both scenarios at varying spatial scales. With this study, we provide an easily applicable method for regional policy making and land use planning in data-scarce environments to reduce the risk of traversing future TPs in ESS supply for rubber producing land use systems. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Seasonal Spatial Activity Patterns of Visitors with a Mobile Exercise Application at Seoraksan National Park, South Korea
Sustainability 2018, 10(7), 2263; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10072263 - 01 Jul 2018
Cited by 5
Abstract
Visitors’ behavior in national parks can be influenced by seasonal variations in climate and preferred activities. Seasonality can produce different space consumption patterns, and impact visitor experience and natural resource use. The purpose of this study was to explore the seasonal spatial patterns [...] Read more.
Visitors’ behavior in national parks can be influenced by seasonal variations in climate and preferred activities. Seasonality can produce different space consumption patterns, and impact visitor experience and natural resource use. The purpose of this study was to explore the seasonal spatial patterns of visitors’ activities using a mobile exercise application within the context of Seoraksan National Park in South Korea. A dataset composed of 5142 starting and ending points of 2639 activities (hiking and walking) created by 1206 mobile exercise application users (January–December 2015) were collected from a leading mobile exercise application operator. GIS-based spatial analytical techniques were used to analyze the spatial patterns of activity points across seasons and days (weekdays/weekends). Results indicated considerable seasonal and daily variations in activity distribution and hot spots (i.e., locations of potential congestion or crowding). The findings enable park managers to mitigate negative impacts to natural resources as well as enhance visitors’ experiences. Also, it allows potential visitors to decide when to visit certain sites via mobile application to ensure optimal conditions. Furthermore, the GPS-based exercise mobile application can be used as a new methodological approach to understand spatio-temporal patterns of visitors’ behavior within national parks and other natural protected areas. Full article
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Open AccessCommunication
PCR Species-Specific Primers for Molecular Gut Content Analysis to Determine the Contribution of Generalist Predators to the Biological Control of the Vector of Xylella fastidiosa
Sustainability 2018, 10(7), 2207; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10072207 - 28 Jun 2018
Abstract
The European Union (EU) is facing the recent arrival of the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa. Its fast spread has caused great alarm because of the economic impact it implies for the agroeconomy of European countries. Among its insect vectors, Philaenus spumarius has been [...] Read more.
The European Union (EU) is facing the recent arrival of the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa. Its fast spread has caused great alarm because of the economic impact it implies for the agroeconomy of European countries. Among its insect vectors, Philaenus spumarius has been demonstrated to transmit the bacterium from infected to uninfected trees in the EU, where different measures have been established to control it. One of the proposals to manage this vector is the augmentation of natural enemy populations. However, the identification of candidate predator species is essential if such a management system is to be introduced. The present paper describes a set of species-specific primers designed to detect the presence of P. spumarius DNA in soil arthropod fauna generalist predators’ gut which can reveal candidate species for the pest’s biological control. Such primers have been proven to be a useful and reliable taxonomic tool for P. spumarius identification at any life stage, i.e., nymphs. This rapid and accurate identification is essential for control strategies designed to avoid the spread of the pest and consequently the considerable economic losses it causes in crops. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Predictive Diagnosis of Agricultural Periurban Areas Based on Territorial Indicators: Comparative Landscape Trends of the So-Called “Orchard of Europe”
Sustainability 2018, 10(6), 1820; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10061820 - 31 May 2018
Cited by 5
Abstract
The Mediterranean southeastern area of Spain has traditionally been known as the “Orchard of Europe”. This configuration, which is based fundamentally on traditional agriculture in periurban areas, has evolved in recent decades as a consequence of the sophistication of the agrifood processes transforming [...] Read more.
The Mediterranean southeastern area of Spain has traditionally been known as the “Orchard of Europe”. This configuration, which is based fundamentally on traditional agriculture in periurban areas, has evolved in recent decades as a consequence of the sophistication of the agrifood processes transforming its landscape. In addition, tourism, the growth of cities, and the impact of the real estate bubble between 1995 and 2007 have configured important alterations which have generated heterogeneous phenomena in these periurban areas. The present article studies this process by analyzing the evolution of the territory and diagnosing its transformation at a large scale. The evolution of three very representative periurban and similar in size environments of this so-called Europe’s orchard will be compared by using different GIS tools: the El Ejido area, the Campo de Cartagena—Mar Menor area and the Huerta de Murcia area. Through the implementation of different territorial indicators, the current issues will be established from an objective and quantifiable perspective. Moreover, possible future scenarios for 2030 will be raised according to the current transformation trends. This approach will lead us to consider the concept of life cycle in the transformation process of a territory. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Contrasting Stakeholders’ Perceptions of Pine Plantations in the Páramo Ecosystem of Ecuador
Sustainability 2018, 10(6), 1707; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10061707 - 23 May 2018
Cited by 3
Abstract
The páramo, a collection of Neotropical alpine ecosystems, plays a prominent role in ecosystem services (ESs), providing water supply and regulation, conservation of biodiversity, and carbon storage in soil. The establishment of pine plantations for carbon sequestration and wood production has recently [...] Read more.
The páramo, a collection of Neotropical alpine ecosystems, plays a prominent role in ecosystem services (ESs), providing water supply and regulation, conservation of biodiversity, and carbon storage in soil. The establishment of pine plantations for carbon sequestration and wood production has recently raised questions concerning the possible impact on the páramo’s ES. This study identifies the main stakeholders in this field and compares and contrasts their perceptions of the impact of pine plantations on the páramo’s ES, because the disparity among stakeholders’ perceptions must be addressed to achieve sustainable management. The data were gathered using 56 semi-structured interviews and were qualitatively analyzed. The results show that the main stakeholder groups (landowners, local government officials, foresters, and nature conservationists) acknowledge the important ES of the plantations. The perception of plantation impact varies among and within stakeholder groups, however, on specific functions, such as water provision, carbon storage, erosion prevention, and habitat function for wildlife and natural vegetation. Consideration and integration of these perceptions can help policy makers and organizations develop sustainable policies for the future management of the páramo ecosystem. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Spatially Explicit Soil Compaction Risk Assessment of Arable Soils at Regional Scale: The SaSCiA-Model
Sustainability 2018, 10(5), 1618; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10051618 - 17 May 2018
Cited by 5
Abstract
Soil compaction caused by field traffic is one of the main threats to agricultural landscapes. Compacted soils have a reduced hydraulic conductivity, lower plant growth and increased surface runoff resulting in numerous environmental issues such as increased nutrient leaching and flood risk. Mitigating [...] Read more.
Soil compaction caused by field traffic is one of the main threats to agricultural landscapes. Compacted soils have a reduced hydraulic conductivity, lower plant growth and increased surface runoff resulting in numerous environmental issues such as increased nutrient leaching and flood risk. Mitigating soil compaction, therefore, is a major goal for a sustainable agriculture and environmental protection. To prevent undesirable effects of field traffic, it is essential to know where and when soil compaction may occur. This study developed a model for soil compaction risk assessment of arable soils at regional scale. A combination of (i) soil, weather, crop type and machinery information; (ii) a soil moisture model and (iii) soil compaction models forms the SaSCiA-model (Spatially explicit Soil Compaction risk Assessment). The SaSCiA-model computes daily maps of soil compaction risk and associated area statistics for varying depths at actual field conditions and for entire regions. Applications with open access data in two different study areas in northern Germany demonstrated the model’s applicability. Soil compaction risks strongly varied in space and time throughout the year. SaSCiA allows a detailed spatio-temporal analysis of soil compaction risk at the regional scale, which exceed those of currently available models. Applying SaSCiA may support farmers, stakeholders and consultants in making decision for a more sustainable agriculture. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Improving Soil and Water Conservation of Riparian Vegetation Based on Landscape Leakiness and Optimal Vegetation Pattern
Sustainability 2018, 10(5), 1571; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10051571 - 15 May 2018
Cited by 1
Abstract
Soil erosion inflicts multiple and severe damage throughout the world. The importance of vegetation spatial patterns in conserving soil and water has been widely acknowledged. In this study, by using the leakiness index (LI), which indicates the soil and water conservation function of [...] Read more.
Soil erosion inflicts multiple and severe damage throughout the world. The importance of vegetation spatial patterns in conserving soil and water has been widely acknowledged. In this study, by using the leakiness index (LI), which indicates the soil and water conservation function of the landscape by integrating landscape patterns closely with hydrological processes, we analyzed the changes in this function of riparian vegetation under different patterns with the aim of identifying the optimal pattern for improving soil and water conservation in severely eroded riparian buffer zones. Prior to this, the relationship between the erosion modulus and LI was discussed to provide certain evidence for the potential application of LI to the study area given the limited empirical works. Results showed that LI illustrated a significantly linear correlation with the erosion modulus (R2 = 0.636, p < 0.01), thereby suggesting a promising application of LI in the Beijiang riparian vegetation buffer zone. A comparison of the LI values regarding four different vegetation patterns indicated that under the premise of the same coverage (40%), the aggregation degree and patch orientation with low LI values exerted improved performance for soil and water conservation, so we selected the horizontal distribution and compact aggregation as the optimal pattern for vegetation regulation. The spatial variations of LI values in the study area showed that five regions were suffering from severe erosion, thus becoming the targeted area for regulation. The final regulation with the optimal vegetation pattern in severely eroded areas performed well given that the soil and water conservation was improved to a high level with a LI value less than or equal to 0.2. The results described in this study provide an alternative screening method to figure out the severe erosion areas needing improvement, a further understanding of the effect of vegetation pattern on soil and water conservation and a theoretical basis for the extended application of LI. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Regional Variability of Agriculturally-Derived Nitrate-Nitrogen in Shallow Groundwater in China, 2004–2014
Sustainability 2018, 10(5), 1393; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10051393 - 02 May 2018
Cited by 3
Abstract
Increasing diffuse nitrate loading of groundwater has long been a major environmental and health concern in China, but little is known about the spatial and temporal variability of nitrate concentrations in groundwater at regional scales. The aim of this study was to assess [...] Read more.
Increasing diffuse nitrate loading of groundwater has long been a major environmental and health concern in China, but little is known about the spatial and temporal variability of nitrate concentrations in groundwater at regional scales. The aim of this study was to assess the spatial distribution and variation of nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N) concentrations in groundwater. We used groundwater quality monitoring data and soil physical characteristics from 21 agro-ecosystems in China for years 2004 to 2014. The results indicated that NO3-N concentrations were highly variable in shallow groundwater across the landscape. Over the study period, most of the NO3-N concentrations were below the World Health Organization permissible limit for drinking water (<10 mg N·L). NO3-N concentrations in groundwater neither significantly increased nor decreased in most agro-ecosystems, but fluctuated with seasons. In addition, groundwater NO3-N under purple soil (6.81 mg·L−1) and Aeolian sandy soil (6.02 mg·L−1) were significantly higher (p < 0.05) than that under other soil types, and it was medium-high (4.49 mg·L−1) under aquic cinnamon soil. Elevated nitrate concentrations occurred mainly in oasis agricultural areas of northwestern China, where farmlands with coarse-textured soils use flood irrigation. Therefore, arid and semi-arid areas are expected to sustain high NO3-N concentrations in groundwater. Mitigation strategies can prevent this problem, and include control of N fertilizer input, balanced fertilization, proper rotation system, adoption of improved irrigation methods, and establishment of environmental policies. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Exploring Farmers’ Indigenous Knowledge of Soil Quality and Fertility Management Practices in Selected Farming Communities of the Guinea Savannah Agro-Ecological Zone of Ghana
Sustainability 2018, 10(4), 1034; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10041034 - 30 Mar 2018
Cited by 6
Abstract
Efforts to improve soil productive capacity aimed at boosting crop production in the Northern Ghana has primarily focused on field-based experiments with little documentation on farmer practice and local indigenous knowledge of soil management. A sample group of 114 farmers from five farming [...] Read more.
Efforts to improve soil productive capacity aimed at boosting crop production in the Northern Ghana has primarily focused on field-based experiments with little documentation on farmer practice and local indigenous knowledge of soil management. A sample group of 114 farmers from five farming communities in the Guinea Savannah was interviewed to evaluate their indigenous knowledge of crop production practices in the context of soil health, fertilization management, and crop yield. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews and responses for each category were calculated using simple proportions. Farmers’ fertilization practice was primarily influenced by fertilization resource availability and crop yield response. The results showed that inorganic fertilization was the commonest fertilization type among farmers. Farmer local indicators of soil health were predominantly limited to visually observable signs such as presence or absence of indicator plants, growth vigor of plants, soil color, and tilth, texture, and compaction. Non-tactile and visible indicators, notably soil chemical composition and presence of soil microorganisms, was rarely used. The listed indicators were congruent with scientific reports, although some knowledge gaps, particularly on the use of indicator plants, were identified. The use of indicator plants as determinants of healthy or non-healthy soils appeared to be influenced by the ease of control of weeds, its utilitarian benefits, benefits to the soil, and threats on cultivated crops. Famers were well informed about the decreasing crop yield. Fertilization practices and limitations in soil management practices with proposed capacity building approaches aimed at enhancing productive capacities of cultivated farmlands are discussed. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Using the Ecosystem Services Framework for Policy Impact Analysis: An Application to the Assessment of the Common Agricultural Policy 2014–2020 in the Province of Ferrara (Italy)
Sustainability 2018, 10(3), 890; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10030890 - 20 Mar 2018
Abstract
The objective of this study is to test a methodology for the classification of areas according to the provision of ecosystem services and for the evaluation of the effects of different agricultural policy scenarios. The evaluation focuses on the different categories of Ecosystem [...] Read more.
The objective of this study is to test a methodology for the classification of areas according to the provision of ecosystem services and for the evaluation of the effects of different agricultural policy scenarios. The evaluation focuses on the different categories of Ecosystem Services (ES) and applies a set of indicators available from secondary data sources. Two scenarios were compared, represented by the pre-2014 CAP and the CAP 2014–2020, based on the measures of the RDP 2014–2020 focused on enhancing ecosystems. The approach was implemented under two weighting solutions. First, we assumed that all indicators have equal weight. As a further step, the framework was integrated with a weighting procedure in order to account for the different importance of the various ES indicators. All municipalities offer a significant number of provisioning and cultural services, mainly connected to recreational opportunities. The indicators with higher importance in the area represent provisioning, supporting and regulating services, while cultural services have received less attention. Comparing the results of the simulation of different policy scenarios, there are no significant differences since the CAP 2014–2020 does not provide for measures likely to affect substantially the overall production of ecosystem services. While this result is plausible, the study confirms the limitations of available secondary data in providing a full account of ecosystem services provision and of their variations as a result of policy. Full article
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Review

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Open AccessReview
Impacts of Agricultural Management Systems on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Highly Simplified Dryland Landscapes
Sustainability 2019, 11(11), 3223; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11113223 - 11 Jun 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Covering about 40% of Earth’s land surface and sustaining at least 38% of global population, drylands are key crop and animal production regions with high economic and social values. However, land use changes associated with industrialized agricultural managements are threatening the sustainability of [...] Read more.
Covering about 40% of Earth’s land surface and sustaining at least 38% of global population, drylands are key crop and animal production regions with high economic and social values. However, land use changes associated with industrialized agricultural managements are threatening the sustainability of these systems. While previous studies assessing the impacts of agricultural management systems on biodiversity and their services focused on more diversified mesic landscapes, there is a dearth of such research in highly simplified dryland agroecosystems. In this paper, we 1) summarize previous research on the effects of farm management systems and agricultural expansion on biodiversity and biodiversity-based ecosystem services, 2) present four case studies assessing the impacts of management systems on biodiversity and ecosystem services across highly simplified dryland landscapes of the Northern Great Plains (NGP), USA, 3) discuss approaches to sustain biodiversity-based ecosystem services in drylands, and 4) present a conceptual framework for enhancing agricultural sustainability in the drylands through research, policy, economic valuation, and adaptive management. An analysis of the land use changes due to agricultural expansion within the Golden Triangle, a representative agricultural area in the NGP, indicated that the proportion of land conversion to agriculture area was 84%, 8%, and 7% from grassland, riparian, and shrubland habitats, respectively. Our results showed this simplification was associated with a potential reduction of pollination services. Also, our economic analysis projected that if 30% parasitism could be achieved through better management systems, the estimated potential economic returns to pest regulation services through parasitoids in Montana, USA alone could reach about $11.23 million. Overall, while dryland agroecosystems showed a significant loss of native biodiversity and its services, greater pest incidence, and a decrease in plant pollinator networks, these trends were moderately reversed in organically managed farming systems. In conclusion, although land use changes due to agricultural expansion and industrialized farming threaten the sustainability of dryland agroecosystems, this impact can be partially offset by coupling ecologically-based farming practices with adaptive management strategies. Full article
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Open AccessLetter
Application of Traditional Knowledge of Hani People in Biodiversity Conservation
Sustainability 2018, 10(12), 4555; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10124555 - 03 Dec 2018
Abstract
Traditional knowledge offers a feasible approach to biodiversity conservation because it not only preserves, but also enriches biodiversity [...] Full article
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