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The Cultural Landscape as a Model for the Integration of Ecology and Economics

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~ The Cultural Landscape as a Model for the Integration of Ecology and Economics ALMO FARINA Human society and nature are the two main forces that shape landscape structure and drive landscape-level
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~ The Cultural Landscape as a Model for the Integration of Ecology and Economics ALMO FARINA Human society and nature are the two main forces that shape landscape structure and drive landscape-level processes. Because two-thirds of the terrestrial surface of the planet is covered by agricultural land, livestock grazing areas, and managed forests, human activities clearly play an important role in creating landscapes. A significant fraction of the earth's biodiversity survives in these human-influenced landscapes, which in many cases can be considered to be cultural landscapes that represent a fundamental storehouse of the earth's natural and cultural capital. Cultural landscapes are geographic areas in which the relationships between human activity and the environment have created ecological, socioeconomic, and cultural patterns and feedback mechanisms that govern the presence, distribution, and abundance of species assemblages. There are many types of cultural landscapes, but all are historically dependent on initial landscape conditions and on the culture of a given time. Paradigms developed by the field of landscape ecology can be used to explain the ecological relevance of cultural landscapes and their capacity to inform and guide other human activities, especially in the economic sphere (Naveh 1998b). During the last two decades, economic globalization has produced new driving forces and disturbance regimes that have in turn transformed landscapes around the globe, making them increasingly prone to the risks of rapid resource depletion and biological impoverishment (di Castri 1998, Naveh 1998a). The growing concern about the state of the planet has revealed the ecological importance of feedback mechanisms acting in cultural landscapes, where human and environmental processes interact. In this article, I describe cultural landscapes and the main processes connecting human and natural realms. I argue that cultural landscapes provide ecologists and economists with a powerful model for understanding the integration of ecology and economics. Such new models are necessary for ecological investigations and innovative management strategies in a world that is dominated by economic globalization. Almo Farina ( ) is the director of the Lunigiana Museum of Natural History, Aulla, Italy American Institute of Biological Sciences. Structural complexity of cultural landscapes Substantial parts of cultural landscapes are heterogeneous agricultural areas, in which crop planting and management decisions are based mainly on interactions among soil characteristics, microclimates, and economic convenience. In a cultural landscape, cultivation is the basic activity controlling the size and spatial arrangement of fields and forest remnants. Water fluxes are preserved and soil nutrient cycles are optimized by the presence of hedgerows functioning as ecotones and buffers. Wind action is reduced by tree planting. Terracing of steep slopes provides flat, arable land while maintaining slope stability, decreasing rates of soil erosion, and reducing water and nutrient losses. Remnants of natural open and forested patches provide connectivity for animal assemblages. The geometric order exhibited by a cultural landscape reflects the sequence of human actions regulated by seasonal, phenological, and economic cycles. A cultural landscape is hierarchically organized in micro-units (ecotopes, sensu Zonneveld 1995), which form the structural basis (i.e., the grain) of the cultural landscape. The successive aggregation of these microsystems (mesochores, macrochores, and megachores, sensu Zonneveld 1995) creates the complex landscape that is observed at scales of meters to kilometers. For instance, across western Europe the first level of this hierarchy is represented by the single- or multi-family farm. The intermediate level is represented by farm aggregations of larger properties or by parishes (religious aggregations). The highest level of organization is represented by geographic area, such as watershed, mountain range, intermountain basin, or river delta, in which the human activities take place. Functional complexity in cultural landscapes The complexity of the cultural landscape is expressed in three main components: natural, cultural, and economic (see box page 315). Natural complexity is largely represented by forest remnants and by animal assemblages that find suitable seasonal habitats in such forest remnants (Farina 1997). Cultural complexity is intimately linked to the diverse human use of resources and to a wide spectrum of ethical and religious beliefs about land use (Figure la). Economic complexity is linked to the diversified use of local resources. Local, seasonally limited resources force local economies to diversify so that they will be sustain- April 2000 I Vol. 50 No.4 BioScience 313 a b c Past / Cultural capital, Natural capital Economic capital Present,... :::.::::::::::.::.:::.:~. Cultural capital Natural capital... ~ Future / Cultural Education Public awamess ~ capital Natural capital ~,,:::::::::::: :::::::::::::::::::... Economic capital ~,... Economic capital Figure 1. Relationships between natural, cultural, and economic capital according to past, present, and future scenarios. Dotted arrows indicate weak connections between the processes. (aj In the past, when cultural landscapes were dominant, each type of capital interacted with the others by feedback mechanisms. (b J In the present, cultural capital is connected only weakly with the two other types of capital. Economic capital influences the natural capital without feedbacks. (c) In a future scenario, once the public is educated about the unsustainability of the present model of development, the relationship between cultural capital and natural capital is restored. turallandscapes to be only relict economic systems that are located at the edge of developed agricultural regions, cultural landscapes play a fundamental economic role in less-developed countries. For example, in Vietnam and Sri Lanka, multicrop fruit plantations (known as fruit gardens) allow a variety of products to be grown throughout the year, sustaining local communities (Halladay and Gilmour 1995). The same strategy can be observed in the forest stands surrounding Amazon villages, in which indigenous people affect plant diversity by selective logging and planting practices (Bennett 1992). able. For instance, in the coltura mista (a fine-grained mosaic of fields, orchards, woodlot, and hedgerow) of the Italian Tuscan landscape, the variety of products reflects the complexity of the microclimatic and edaphic characters of hilly and mountainous terrain (Vos and Stortelder 1992, Farina 1996). The observed products in cultural landscapes are determined by the management of many different natural resources. Although decision-makers often consider cul- Attributes of cultural landscapes Disturbance is a fundamental forcing process in cultural landscapes that is created by both natural forces (e.g., wind, rain, and succession) and human activity (e.g., agriculture, forestry, and livestock grazing). This process affects two relevant attributes of the cultural landscape: fragility and resilience. Fragility, which refers to the susceptibility of an ecosystem to undergo changes in its composition and structure as a result of a perturbation or dis- 314 BioScience April 2000 I Vol. 50 No.4 ~~-'~-~-----, - J turbance regime, can be used as an indicator of the status of an ecosystem or landscape (Nilsson and Grelsson 1995). Fragility has become a popular concept in environmental evaluation and assessment because it can be used to describe the turnover rate of species and processes across ecological systems (Farina 2000). In the context of cultural landscapes, fragility can also be applied to monitor changes in cultural and economic diversity. Resilience is the capacity of a system to recover or to return to its original ground state after a disturbance (Holling 1992, Peterson et al. 1998). In general, the degree of resilience of a system is correlated with the health of that system (Rapport et al. 1998). Cultural landscapes are healthy and tend to recover relatively quickly from disturbance. For example, grasslands across the Mediterranean basin better tolerate disturbances such as the invasion of alien species and heavy grazing regime than more remote, wild, and undisturbed ecological systems (Perevolotsky and Seligman 1998). The resilience of these grasslands depends largely on the longterm history of human intrusion in the Mediterranean region, which, for instance, has encouraged the spread of vegetation types such as geophytes and species with prostrate leaves, which are able to withstand the grazing pressure of human-introduced grazers (see Papanastasis 1998). The resilience of cultural landscapes is enhanced by the reduction of their vulnerability to environmental stresses, such as flooding and fire. This reduction results from the fact that, in a cultural landscape, humans regulate water fluxes and remove dry biomass from open and forested areas. Thus, human stewardship reduces the vulnerability of the system. Conversely, when human stewardship of cultural landscapes is interrupted, the landscapes become vulnerable to the effects of disturbance. Biodiversity in cultural landscapes Biodiversity is often higher in cultural landscapes than in remnants of natural landscapes (Naveh 1998b, Blondel and Haronson 1999). The high value of biodiversity depends largely on the landscape heterogeneity created by the combination of human and natural disturbance regimes and on the availability of a wide spectrum of resources made available by these regimes. Humans who have lived for many years in the same region have generally developed sophisticated management strategies to prevent the rapid decline of natural resources, instead optimizing natural resources and making them persistent and renewable. Resource depletion caused by human activity has undoubtedly resulted in the extinction of organisms and in the degradation of several cultures, but, more often, human societies have, through resource management over The ecological characteristics of cultural landscapes Productive processes scale and integrate with environmental characteristics (ecotopes) Natural processes and human processes feed back on each other Human disturbance regime (stewardship) leads to environmental resilience Landscape patterns (diversity and heterogeneity of the land mosaic) are maintained Landscape processes (e.g., fluxes of nutrients and organisms, connectivity, and self-organizing character of the ecological matrix) are maintained the long term, created highly diversified ecological systems (Naveh 1998b). Historical persistence and cultural gaps In the last four decades, despite changes in the distribution of humans and the use of resources, especially in rural areas, the patterns created by cultural landscapes have been maintained in many regions. The persistence of such patterns depends largely on the success with which resources have been managed and conserved throughout the centuries. The Roman centuriazione is an excellent example of a persistent cultural landscape. In this landscape, which was common in many regions of the Roman empire, a system of fields and margins was planned according to the daily plowing capacity of a yoke of oxen (Dilke 1971, Caravello and Giacomin 1993). By maintaining the multifunctionality of a territory across centuries, the centuriazione has reduced conflicts between natural and human-related processes. The ecologically oriented planning of this rural landscape has made it amenable to many different types of land use throughout history as the socioeconomic and political structure of the human inhabitants changed. Indeed, the infrastructure facilities of centuriaziones (e.g., aqueducts and roads) were used extensively until recently. One well-conserved centuriazione can be observed in the rural areas around Pad ova (in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy; Caravello and Michieletto 1999). The Siena countryside (in the Tuscany region of central Italy) is another persistent cultural landscape. This landscape, which is documented in the Ambrogio Lorenzetti fresco ( ) in the Siena Government Palace, is largely unchanged since medieval times (Figure 2). Vineyards, open fields and scattered trees, woodlands and sparse farms, and castles and abbeys have created a complex system in which agriculture, trading, and wildlife management are well integrated across the highly structured land mosaic. This landscape is, moreover, an enormously popular tourist attraction that is seen as a true work of art. Other cultural landscapes have recently been recognized as important components of our global cultural heritage April 2000 / Vol. 50 No.4 BioScience 315 Figure 2. Detail from the Buongoverno fresco by Ambrogio Lorenzetti ( ) in the Siena Government Palace. The landscape appears highly structured, showing a mosaic of different land uses. This medieval landscape has been conserved through the present with the same ecological functionality. (Svoboda 1990, Vos and Stortelder 1992, Bunce et al. 1993, Farina and Naveh 1993, Farina 1995, Saunier and Meganck 1995, Von Droste et al. 1995, Ihse 1996, Rackham 1998). Nevertheless, few ecological data are available to describe the structure and functions of cultural landscapes. This data gap reflects the fact that cultural landscapes are not a popular subject of ecological investigations, most of which are conducted in non-manipulated ecological systems. The protection of untouched fragments of nature and the species they contain has dominated conservation strategies during the past few decades, and the myth of untouched nature has often worked against the protection of the real world, which is often dominated and shaped by human activities. To face the challenges of resource depletion and the abrupt degradation of the quality of human life, it is imperative that ecologists conduct research outside protected areas, in culturallandscapes and other systems that have been modified by human activities (Halladay and Gilmour 1995). The global economy and the cultural landscape economy The economy (by which I refer mainly to food production) of cultural landscapes is currently of much less importance than the global economy, which moves prod- ucts and capital at a rate that is several orders of magnitude higher. The ability of the global economy to respond rapidly to societal needs with new production and marketing strategies reduces the risks of local and regional economic crises. In large-scale production agriculture, specialization in crop production and the use of highly productive cultivars are the rule, and decisions about the types of items to be produced are governed by the global market. The adoption of industrial-like agricultural production systems has forced farmers to invest heavily in high-technology infrastructures with potentially short life spans that must respond to the changing demands of a dynamic global market. Conversely, production may move from one place to another in response to a more favorable climate or market forecast. In this economics model, the economic landscape spans a global scale. The effective landscape mosaic at this scale is composed of macroregions at a subcontinental level, and the shift in the land mosaic due to market dynamics can be observed from a subcontinental to a global scale. The new landscape created to optimize crop quality and productivity is characterized by large monocultural fields in which most of the natural patterns, such as morphology, drainage network, forest mosaic, buffer zones, and ecological processes (e.g., connectivity and resilience), have been simplified (Figure 3). Economic globalization has, therefore, created a new economic matrix and a new economically driven landscape in which the grain size of land use and the socioeconomic mosaic have been enlarged proportionately to the economic scale of influence. These new land configurations-in which the time scale of economic changes is shorter than the time scale of the development of ecological adaptations and recovery from environmental stressare ecologically unstable and poor in ecological and biological diversity. Economic choices in cultural landscapes, by contrast, are tempered by a feedback loop that is based on the 316 BioScience April 2000 / Vol. 50 No.4 Figure 3. Modalities of natural resource use in cultural and modern landscapes. (a) In a cultural landscape, the differential but simultaneous use of many different natural resources (labeled A-E), represented by circles of different shape and contour (to distinguish scale, intensity, energy allocated, and temporal use), creates a network of interactions between resources and uses, shaping a diversified natural, cultural, and a Resources utilized Resources not used Resources degraded e o' ., b ED A Patterns in human use of the resources (resource circle) Interactions between human uses economic mosaic. (b) In a modern landscape, a few resources are used heavily by using simplified strategies, but many are ignored and others are degraded. The resulting natural, cultural, and economic mosaics appear to be more homogeneous and large scale, as shown by the size of resource use circles. This model can be recognized along the northeast slopes of the northern Apennines mountains (Figure 4c), where diversified products (wood, charcoal, cereals, potatoes, fruits, milk, cheese, and fresh and preserved meat) have been supplanted by Parmigiana cheese production, transforming a fine-grained mosaic of fields and woodlots into large-scale meadows. o E c D o responses of natural systems to those choices; the long time required to create cultural landscapes allows plants and animals to adapt to the new human perturbation regime. In a cultural landscape, local conditions determine the shifting mosaic of productive lands at a scale that is many times smaller than in the modern landscape of the global economy. Most of the productive mechanisms in cultural landscapes try to avoid local ecological crises, such as overexploitation of resources, because of the limited ability of local people to quickly develop new socioeconomic models or to move elsewhere. Cultural landscapes are based not on massive production but on the production of items in quantities sufficient to satisfy local markets. Although cultural landscapes are rich in crop varieties, the total amount of production is limited and is too small to satisfy a large population. In many regions, this model has become obsolete as human society has become more and more concentrated in large urban areas whose food needs demand massive agricultural production. Cultural landscapes survive only in isolated regions, where people are distributed sparsely, and they playa major role only in less-developed regions (such as the uplands of Mediterranean basin) and in some developing countries. For many years, the cultural landscape model has not been considered socioeconomically important, and the last four decades have been full of examples of abandonment, simplification, and destruction of the patterns typical of cultural landscape mosaics (e.g., hedgerows, small fields, local varieties of crops and livestock). Indeed, the strength of a cultural landscape is based on the long-term maintenance of culturally driven patterns and processes that ensure turnover in wild and domestic species, maintain a flux of energy and information, and assure autopoietic (autocatalytic, sensu Ulanowicz 1997) reorganization of the land mosaic under human stewardship. Ecology of modern and cultural landscapes The modern technological landscapes (Naveh and Lieberman 1984) that are created by the global economy differ from cultural landscapes in many respects. In modern landscapes, economic decision
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