Special Issue "Rural Landscape, Nature Conservation and Culture"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Tourism, Culture, and Heritage".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (20 May 2020).

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Mauro Agnoletti
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Laboratory for Landscape and Cultural Heritage, School of Agriculture, University of Florence, Via San Bonaventura 13, 50145, Firenze, Italy
Interests: rural landscape
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The development model promoted in the last decades has not only shown to be ineffective to solve the economic problems of many rural areas, but also contributed to the loss of cultural values associated to rural communities. This has brought to the degradation of valuable landscapes shaped by several generations of farmers, to the abandonment of millions of hectares of farmed land and to urbanization processes, creating social degradation and increasing urban sprawl. As one of the human activities which has a direct relationship with nature and environment, agriculture and forestry are  often considered as some of the main drivers of the negative trend that is being followed, representing the greatest immediate threat to species and ecosystems. In fact, unsustainable farming and forest practices result in land conversion leading to soil erosion and degradation, habitat loss, genetic erosion, inefficient use of water, pollution impacting wild and human life. Nevertheless, when agriculture is practiced in a sustainable way, it can preserve landscape, biocultural diversity, protect watersheds, and improve soil health and biodiversity. In fact, the use of sustainable ecological practices is a key feature distinguishing resilient rural landscapes developed over centuries, based on cultural values and proven traditions. This kind of landscapes may be considered as less productive from modern-intensive systems, but it has ensured sustainable yield over time, thanks to time-tested technologies and traditional know-hows, using reduced external energy inputs. Furthermore, food production practices associated to the quality of landscape and tourism, may represent a fundamental added value for the competitiveness of many rural areas not suited for industrial agriculture. Considering the sustainable development goals and the need to combine human development with the conservation of the environment, reducing global warming, there is the need identify new models capable of integrating economic, social and environmental process, providing a new vision for the future of the planet. The special issue aims at collecting research papers discussing these topics.

Prof. Dr. Mauro Agnoletti
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • rural landscape
  • cultural landscape
  • rural development
  • nature conservation
  • biocultural diversity
  • planning and management

Published Papers (12 papers)

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Research

Article
Public Management, Private Management and Collective Action in the Portoviejo River Basin: Visions and Conflicts
Sustainability 2020, 12(13), 5467; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12135467 - 07 Jul 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 717
Abstract
Agricultural policies show an orientation in the management of natural resources, such as water, towards specialized production for world markets. This is promoting models of private use against those of common use. The objective of this research is to evaluate the transformations in [...] Read more.
Agricultural policies show an orientation in the management of natural resources, such as water, towards specialized production for world markets. This is promoting models of private use against those of common use. The objective of this research is to evaluate the transformations in the institutional framework associated with the change of vision of water and the pressures created on peasant communities that culturally maintain socio-ecological systems. Based on Ostrom’s methodological proposals for the governance of common goods, a case study of the Rio Portoviejo Basin (Ecuador) was carried out. The three developed management models are analyzed: public, private and community. Evidence is provided that the community model is more equitable, efficient and sustainable. The way in which the extension of the market model, which conditions agricultural activity to profitability, is weakening the networks of peasant communities is also studied. In this context, the correlation between the loss of the traditional agrarian culture and the environmental degradation of the area is observed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rural Landscape, Nature Conservation and Culture)
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Article
Vegetable and Gardening Tower of Othmar Ruthner in the Voivodeship Park of Culture and Recreation in Chorzów—The First Example of Vertical Farming in Poland
Sustainability 2020, 12(13), 5378; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12135378 - 03 Jul 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1319
Abstract
The purpose of this paper is to analyze the possibility of introducing urban vertical agriculture in Poland through the example of the only comprehensively implemented facility of this type so far. Through the example of Othmar Ruthner’s no longer existing vegetable and gardening [...] Read more.
The purpose of this paper is to analyze the possibility of introducing urban vertical agriculture in Poland through the example of the only comprehensively implemented facility of this type so far. Through the example of Othmar Ruthner’s no longer existing vegetable and gardening tower in Chorzów, the benefits and damages resulting from an attempt to construct such facilities are presented. The paper also contains an analysis and an attempt to critically assess the phenomenon of the vertical greenhouse that was built in Poland, along with an attempt to assess the real causes of its failure. Based on source material analysis, examples of implementation, and available literature on the subject, an analysis of the possibilities of transforming the facility at the time of its demolition and now was made. The phenomenon of the vertical farm in Chorzów, as a trace of the contemporary architectural heritage of Upper Silesia, is a topic for a broader discussion about the architectural heritage created by buildings which are not so much industrial as technical, with a role so far only secondary to what we call the main architectural functions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rural Landscape, Nature Conservation and Culture)
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Article
Wild Food Thistle Gathering and Pastoralism: An Inextricable Link in the Biocultural Landscape of Barbagia, Central Sardinia (Italy)
Sustainability 2020, 12(12), 5105; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12125105 - 23 Jun 2020
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 752
Abstract
In Sardinia, pastoralism has been at the heart of cultural identity for millennia. Such activity has shaped the landscape by sustainably managing its elements over the centuries. We conducted 30 semi-structured interviews regarding the uses of wild plants as well as their contribution [...] Read more.
In Sardinia, pastoralism has been at the heart of cultural identity for millennia. Such activity has shaped the landscape by sustainably managing its elements over the centuries. We conducted 30 semi-structured interviews regarding the uses of wild plants as well as their contribution to sheep breeding over the last few decades in two villages of Barbagia di Ollolai. We recorded the use of 73 taxa belonging to 35 families. Over one-third of the vernacular food taxa were mentioned as raw snacks. Specifically, 22% were used only as raw snacks, while another 22% were used as raw snacks in addition to other uses. Indeed, there is a subcategory of raw snacks represented by thistle plants, named cardu, referring to thorny herbaceous taxa. Cardu are often related to the pastoral realm in the Mediterranean Basin as they are gathered, often with the help of a knife, peeled with the blade, and consumed on the spot while grazing sheep, but ultimately, their crunchiness provides a pleasant chewing experience. In addition, cardu may have been used as thirst quenchers. We conclude that pastoral activity has significantly contributed to the development of a distinctive food heritage and cultural landscape. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rural Landscape, Nature Conservation and Culture)
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Article
Sustainability of the Jeju Haenyeo Fisheries System in the Context of Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS)
Sustainability 2020, 12(9), 3512; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12093512 - 25 Apr 2020
Viewed by 913
Abstract
According to the Brundtland Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), the concept of sustainability emerges from the expectation of development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. [...] Read more.
According to the Brundtland Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), the concept of sustainability emerges from the expectation of development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This notion of sustainability is highly related to the implication of the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS) of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The haenyeo (women divers) fisheries system of Jeju Island, South Korea, serves as an empirical case that illustrates that the core meaning of GIAHS is placed on the concept of sustainability. The most important objective of this case study is to explore how the five main values of GIAHS—(i) food and livelihood security, (ii) agro-biodiversity, (iii) local and traditional knowledge systems, (iv) cultures, value systems, and social organizations, and (v) landscape and seascape features—can be interlocked, and how the concept of sustainability can emerge through this interlocked relationship. In doing this, the value of both GIAHS and the Jeju haenyeo fisheries system is illuminated. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rural Landscape, Nature Conservation and Culture)
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Article
Agricultural Heritage Systems and Landscape Perception among Tourists. The Case of Lamole, Chianti (Italy)
Sustainability 2020, 12(9), 3509; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12093509 - 25 Apr 2020
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 1228
Abstract
The Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) program, promoted by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), recognizes the multifunctional role of agricultural heritage systems. Traditional terraced landscapes represent important touristic destinations, and Chianti is one of the most well-known areas of Italy for [...] Read more.
The Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) program, promoted by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), recognizes the multifunctional role of agricultural heritage systems. Traditional terraced landscapes represent important touristic destinations, and Chianti is one of the most well-known areas of Italy for rural tourism. The high-quality landscape of Lamole, consisting of forests and terraced agricultural areas, is included in the Italian National Register of Historical Rural Landscapes thanks to local farmers who recently restored the traditional landscape, considering it important both for tourism and product quality. The main aim of this research was to investigate, using anonymous questionnaires, whether tourists are aware of the characteristics of the Lamole landscape in comparison with other parts of Chianti. Results show that tourists clearly express their preference for the traditional landscape, which is comprised of a mosaic of agricultural patches with dry-stone terraces and forests, and that the level of landscape diversification is similar to 180 years ago. As tourism is a major resource, public institutions should support farmers in preserving the traditional landscape, investing in paths and information, as requested by tourists. The methodology has proved to be useful for addressing local planning, and to help farmers to achieve sustainable development in well-known touristic rural areas. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rural Landscape, Nature Conservation and Culture)
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Article
The Loss of Landscape Ecological Functionality in the Barcelona Province (1956–2009): Could Land-Use History Involve a Legacy for Current Biodiversity?
Sustainability 2020, 12(6), 2238; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12062238 - 13 Mar 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1011
Abstract
Could past land uses, and the land cover changes carried out, affect the current landscape capacity to maintain biodiversity? If so, knowledge of historical landscapes and their socio-ecological transitions would be useful for sustainable land use planning. We constructed a GIS dataset in [...] Read more.
Could past land uses, and the land cover changes carried out, affect the current landscape capacity to maintain biodiversity? If so, knowledge of historical landscapes and their socio-ecological transitions would be useful for sustainable land use planning. We constructed a GIS dataset in 10 × 10 km UTM cells of the province of Barcelona (Catalonia, Spain) for 1956 and 2009 with the changing levels of farming disturbance exerted through the human appropriation of photosynthetic net primary production (HANPP), and a set of landscape ecology metrics to assess the impacts of the corresponding land-use changes. Then, we correlated them with the spatial distribution of total species richness (including vascular plants, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals). The results allow us to characterize the main trends in changing landscape patterns and processes, and explore whether a land-use legacy of many complex agroforest mosaics maintained by the intermediate farming disturbance managed in 1956 could still exist, despite the decrease or disappearance of those mosaics before 2009 due to the combined impacts of agroindustrial intensification (meaning higher HANPP levels), forest transition (meaning lower HANPP levels) and urban sprawl. Statistical analysis reveals a positive impact of the number of larger, less disturbed forest patches, where many protected natural sites have been created in 1956–2009. However, it also confirms that this result has not only been driven by conservation policies and that the distribution of species richness is currently correlated with the maintenance of intermediate levels of HANPP. This suggests that both land-sharing and land-sparing approaches to biodiversity conservation may have played a synergistic role owing to the legacy of complex land cover mosaics of former agricultural landscapes that are now under a serious threat. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rural Landscape, Nature Conservation and Culture)
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Article
Characterization of Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) in Europe
Sustainability 2020, 12(4), 1611; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12041611 - 21 Feb 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1454
Abstract
The recognition and safeguarding of agricultural heritage in Europe are new concepts that are gaining attention due to the contribution they make to sustainability. Of the 57 Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) that exist in the world today, only six have been [...] Read more.
The recognition and safeguarding of agricultural heritage in Europe are new concepts that are gaining attention due to the contribution they make to sustainability. Of the 57 Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) that exist in the world today, only six have been designated in Europe. Through a qualitative analysis of the proposal documents submitted by these six European GIAHS to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) during the designation process, this study provides a comparative characterization of these sites supported by expert assessment. During the first phase, 24 specific sub-criteria were observed based on the five main criteria that a site has to meet in order to demonstrate its global relevance as an agricultural heritage of humanity. The relevance of the resulting sub-criteria was then assessed by a Delphi panel of experts and the validated ones were applied in an assessment of the six European sites. The European GIAHS sites are characterized by the high value of their cultural landscapes’ evolution, modeled by traditional and adaptive agriculture knowledge and practices that are promoted and maintained thanks to organized and committed social organizations. The results of structuring of sub-criteria can facilitate the application of other possible European GIAHS sites. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rural Landscape, Nature Conservation and Culture)
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Article
Research Progress in the Conservation and Development of China-Nationally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (China-NIAHS)
Sustainability 2020, 12(1), 126; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12010126 - 23 Dec 2019
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 803
Abstract
To cope with the problem of the global agricultural environment, food security, and the crisis of sustainable agricultural development, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), together with other relevant national organizations and several countries, launched the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) in [...] Read more.
To cope with the problem of the global agricultural environment, food security, and the crisis of sustainable agricultural development, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), together with other relevant national organizations and several countries, launched the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) in 2002. The Qingtian Rice-Fish system was designated as China’s first GIAHS and was included in the first batch of GIAHS pilot sites, in 2005. Since then, study of systematic agricultural heritage and its conservation and development has progressed in China. On the basis of a comprehensive collection of relevant studies, the author reviews the main achievements in conservation and development of China-Nationally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (China-NIAHS) over the past 15 years. At the present stage, the core contents of study on agricultural heritage are focused on two aspects. One is the benefit of exploration with multi-functional development. Another is dynamic conservation with adaptive management. There are many controversies around the concept and connotation of agricultural heritage, which, in turn, promote the understanding of this new type of heritage. The sustainable mechanism within agricultural heritage gives itself value diversity. Study about the value of agricultural heritage highlights the significance of conservation. The development of multi-functional industrials based on its multi-functional value is the pathway for the development of China-NIAHS, including the production of high-quality and characteristic local agricultural products, the development of ecotourism, and the development of cultural industries. To carry out dynamic conservation and adaptive management, the establishment of "five in one" benefit-sharing, multi-stakeholder mechanisms, legally guaranteed incentive mechanisms, government-leading, multi-financing mechanisms, and multi-disciplinary scientific support mechanisms are indispensable. Although China has made great progress in the study of agricultural heritage, it still needs to carry out additional research through heritage resources surveys, regular patterns of system evolution, and sustainable mechanisms, as well as perform more applicable research in framework and mechanism construction and paradigms of dynamic protection. Multidisciplinary comprehensive studies are necessary as well. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rural Landscape, Nature Conservation and Culture)
Article
The Scarecrow as an Indicator of Changes in the Cultural Heritage of Rural Poland
Sustainability 2019, 11(23), 6857; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11236857 - 02 Dec 2019
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1345
Abstract
Scarecrows were commonly featuredin rural landscapes until recently. There are numerous rituals associated with creating a scarecrow and erecting it in the field, with many legends being linked to this character.The scarecrow itself has counterparts in many countries worldwide. However, with civilisation progressingand [...] Read more.
Scarecrows were commonly featuredin rural landscapes until recently. There are numerous rituals associated with creating a scarecrow and erecting it in the field, with many legends being linked to this character.The scarecrow itself has counterparts in many countries worldwide. However, with civilisation progressingand characterised withan emphasis on economic efficiency and agricultural engineering in the present day, scarecrows are disappearing from the rural landscape. Advanced electronic devices replace them, while scarecrows end up in museums and open-air museums calledskansens, as well as beingon display at local village festivals. The goal of this paper is to investigate the past and present functions of the scarecrow in rural areas in Poland as an indicator of changes occurring inthe cultural heritage in these areas. The survey and field studies were carried out in selected localities in Małopolskie Voivodeship that exhibited distinct qualities related to rural cultural heritage. The study involved photographic documentation and a diagnostic survey using the structured direct interview technique. The interview focused on local community leaders. Resultingly, scarecrows were demonstrated to be an essential indicator of changes in Poland’s rural cultural heritage. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rural Landscape, Nature Conservation and Culture)
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Article
Monitoring Traditional Rural Landscapes. The Case of Italy
Sustainability 2019, 11(21), 6107; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11216107 - 02 Nov 2019
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 1022
Abstract
The importance of rural landscapes is recognized at both the international and national level. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has established a program called Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) and agricultural landscapes are also listed in the UNESCO World Heritage List. [...] Read more.
The importance of rural landscapes is recognized at both the international and national level. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has established a program called Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) and agricultural landscapes are also listed in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The World Bank and the Convention on Biological Diversity also have departments working on this topic, while landscape has been included in the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union 2020–2027. One of the most important tools for landscape management, conservation and valorization is the development of a monitoring system, suited to control not only dynamics, but also the effectiveness of the policies affecting rural landscape. A research project of the Italian Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies has identified 123 areas scattered in the entire Italian territory, with an average size of 1300 ha, in order to establish a national monitoring system for traditional rural landscapes. As a result of this national survey, the Ministry decided to establish the National Register of Historical Rural Landscapes, that is also the Italian list for potential application to GIAHS. These landscapes are characterized by a long history, presence of traditional practices, typical foods, complex landscape mosaics and high biocultural diversity. Detailed land use maps have been produced for each area, and among other data, the average number of land use types (19.6 ha) and the average patch size (2.7 ha) detected, confirm the fine grain of these landscapes characterized by high complexity and diversity of the landscape structure. A second survey was carried out five years later, in order to create a national monitoring system based on fixed study areas. The paper shows that in the last five years no major changes occurred, and even in the 33 areas where transformations are considered significant (i.e., >5% of the surface of the area), the characteristic features of the historical landscape are still well preserved. This confirms the resilience of these systems despite climatic and socioeconomic pressures. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rural Landscape, Nature Conservation and Culture)
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Article
Study on the Sustainable Development of Human Settlement Space Environment in Traditional Villages
Sustainability 2019, 11(15), 4186; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11154186 - 02 Aug 2019
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1433
Abstract
The sustainability of the human settlement space environment is an eternal subject of human exploration. There hides the idea of human settlement space in an externally displayed material environment. This paper takes Dai villages in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan as the research object. Dai villages [...] Read more.
The sustainability of the human settlement space environment is an eternal subject of human exploration. There hides the idea of human settlement space in an externally displayed material environment. This paper takes Dai villages in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan as the research object. Dai villages are the place where the ancestors of Dai people live, produce, and collectively construct human settlement, production, and spirit. Taking field investigation data and maps of Dai settlement areas as data sources, this paper explores Dai people’s view of human settlement space, analyzes the spatial cultural connotation of Dai villages, and the concept of sustainable human settlements ecology through the analysis of the factors of the villages’ spatial form. The survey results are as follows: (1) the villages are usually located at river valleys and basin areas, which are characteristic of facing the sun and near the water, embodying the persevering ecological concept of “adapting to local conditions and coexisting with nature”. (2) Dai people are one of the earliest “rice-growing nationalities”. Dai people’s settlements have formed a sustainable human settlement ecological space and the spatial pattern of “water-forest-field-village” is an organic whole. (3) The combination of Dai’s primitive religious ecology and Southern Buddhist culture has formed the characteristic of “advocating nature and Buddhism” and a unique concept of settlement space. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rural Landscape, Nature Conservation and Culture)
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Article
Exploring Tangible and Intangible Heritage and its Resilience as a Basis to Understand the Cultural Landscapes of Saxon Communities in Southern Transylvania (Romania)
Sustainability 2019, 11(11), 3102; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11113102 - 01 Jun 2019
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1462
Abstract
Landscape researchers tend to reduce the diversity of tangible heritage to physical aspects of cultural landscapes, from the wealth of intangible heritage they focus on land-use practices which have a direct and visible impact on the landscape. We suggest a comprehensive assessment of [...] Read more.
Landscape researchers tend to reduce the diversity of tangible heritage to physical aspects of cultural landscapes, from the wealth of intangible heritage they focus on land-use practices which have a direct and visible impact on the landscape. We suggest a comprehensive assessment of both tangible and intangible heritage, in order to more accurately assess the interconnection of local identity and the shaping of cultural landscapes. As an example, we looked at Saxon culture and cultural landscapes in southern Transylvania (Romania), where we assessed features of tangible and intangible cultural heritage, identified their resilience and the driving forces of their change. Our analysis, based on 74 interviews with residents in ten villages in southern Transylvania, showed a high resilience of tangible heritage and a low resilience of intangible heritage. A major factor responsible for changes in the Saxon heritage was a decline in the population at the end of the Cold War, due to migration, driven by political and economic factors. We conclude by discussing the specific merits of such an analysis for integrated landscape management. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rural Landscape, Nature Conservation and Culture)
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