Environmental Management

, Volume 42, Issue 4, pp 603–619 | Cite as

Managing Abandoned Farmland: The Need to Link Biological and Sociological Aspects

  • Karyne BenjaminEmail author
  • André Bouchard
  • Gérald Domon


The lack of a particular use associated with abandoned farmland provides real opportunities with respect to the various land-use pressures occurring in productive territories. These environments remain generally poorly known and, because of this, require in-depth studies on the feasibility of management options, on biological as well as social grounds. This study, based on research on the biophysical potential and the perceptions by the owners of abandoned farmlands, analyzes the feasibility of silvicultural management options to improve forestry potential. Using a questionnaire, we surveyed abandoned farmland owners on different aspects of the status of their abandoned farmland in order to determine their willingness toward the management of these private lands. The land owners were also asked to express their interests and their constraints toward various types of interventions, with an emphasis on silvicultural work. The data were analyzed using multivariate methods to establish relationships between the questionnaire data and the characteristics of the land owners (socioeconomic profile and value system toward the environment). The results show that, in general, abandoned farmland is an unwanted space, is generally little used, is poorly known, and has little importance in the plans of its owners. We have found three types of owner profiles; the owners with a farmer’s profile are those who are the most interested in managing their abandoned farmland, whether for agriculture or silviculture. The desire to improve abandoned farmland seems less important to owners with an ecocentric profile (high awareness of the environment) and to older owners. Finally, by associating the type of abandoned farmland owned and the characteristics of the owners, it is possible to propose different management options that reconcile the wishes of the owners as well as the biophysical potential of their abandoned farmland.


Abandoned farmland Land owners Management Perception Reforestation Multivariate analysis 



This study was conducted with the support of a Fond québéçois de la recherche sur la nature et les technologies (FQRNT) team research grant to A. Bouchard, A. Cogliastro, G. Domon, and D. Marceau, an NSERC individual grant to A. Bouchard, an SSHRC grant to G. Domon, and a FCAR graduate scholarship to K. Benjamin. We are grateful to P. Legendre and S. Daigle for their advice on statistical analyses. We wish to thank all of the owners of abandoned farmlands who participated in this study. We also thank the four reviewers of this paper for their constructive comments on the manuscript.


  1. Agence forestière de la Montérégie (2001) Plan de protection et de mise en valeur des forêts privées de la Montérégie. Document de planification. Agence forestière de la MontérégieGoogle Scholar
  2. Aubin I, Messier C, Bouchard A (2008) Can plantations develop understory biological and physical attributes of naturally generated forests? Biological Conservation (accepted)Google Scholar
  3. Backlund EA, Stewart WP, McDonald C (2004) Public evaluation of open space in Illinois: citizen support for natural area acquisition. Environmental Management 34:634–641CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bariteau L (1988) La carte géomorphologique au 1:20 000 de modelés polygéniques: un exemple des basses terres du Saint-Laurent. M.Sc. thesis. Université de Montréal, MontréalGoogle Scholar
  5. Barrué-Pastor M, Fournié V (1996) La montagne ariégeoise entre friche et paysage: un consensus illusoire. Études Rurales 141/142:109–123Google Scholar
  6. Behan J, McQuinn K, Roche MJ (2006) Rural land use: traditional agriculture or forestry? Land Economics 82:112–123Google Scholar
  7. Benjamin K, Domon G, Bouchard A (2005) Vegetation composition and succession of abandoned farmland: effects of ecological, historical and spatial factors. Landscape Ecology 20:627–647CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Benjamin K, Bouchard A, Domon G (2007) Abandoned farmlands as components of rural landscapes: an analysis of perceptions and representations. Landscape and Urban Planning 83:228–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Benton TG, Vickery JA, Wilson JD (2003) Farmland biodiversity: is habitat heterogeneity the key? Trends in Ecology and Evolution 18:182–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Billeter R, Liira J, Bailey D, Bugter R, Arens P, Augenstein I, Aviron S, Baudry J, Bukacek R, Burel F, Cerny M, De Blust G, De Cock R, Diekötter T, Dieta H, Dirksen J, Dormann C, Durka W, Frenzel M, Hamersky R, Hendrickz F, Herzog F, Klotz S, Koolstra B, Lausch A, Le Coeur D, Maelfait JP, Opdam P, Roubalova M, Schermann A, Schermann N, Schmidt T, Schweiger O, Smulders MJM, Speelmans M, Simova P, Verboon J, van Wingerden WKRE, Zobel M, Edwards PJ (2008) Indicators for biodiversity in agricultural landscapes: a pan-European study. Journal of Applied Ecology 45:141–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bjerke T, Kaltenborn BP (1999) The relationship of ecocentric and anthropocentric motives to attitudes toward large carnivores. Journal of Environmental Psychology 19:415–421CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bouchard A, Brisson J (1996) Domaine de l’érablière à caryer cordiforme. In: Bérard J, Côté M (eds) Manuel de foresterie. Ordre des ingénieurs forestiers du Québec, Les Presses de l’Université Laval, pp 160–170Google Scholar
  13. Bouchard A, Domon G (1997) The transformation of the natural landscapes of the Haut-Saint-Laurent (Québec) and their implications on future resource management. Landscape and Urban Planning 37:99–107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Brush R, Chenoweth RE, Barman T (2000) Group differences in the enjoyability fo driving through rural landscapes. Landscape and Urban Planning 47:39–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Burton RJF (2004) Reconceptualising the “behavioral approach” in agricultural studies: a socio-psychological perspective. Journal of Rural Studies 20:359–371CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Casey Scott PK (2006) Environmental concern and behaviour in an Australian sample within an ecocentric-anthropocentric framework. Australian Journal of Psychology 58:57–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Cavailhes J, Normandin D (1993) Déprise agricole et boisement: état des lieux, enjeux et perspectives dans le cadre de la réforme de la PAC. Revue Forestière Francaise 45:465–482Google Scholar
  18. CERAMAC (2000) Les friches dans le Massif central. CERAMACGoogle Scholar
  19. Charles J-P (1979) Possibilités et limites de l’utilisation extensive des terres en friche. Schweizerische Landwirtschafliche Forschung 18:173–180Google Scholar
  20. Cogliastro A, and Hallé A (eds) (2001) Dynamiser la sylviculture des feuillus. In: La société des amis de la Maison de l’arbre. Jardin botanique de Montréal, Montréal, p 92Google Scholar
  21. Cogliastro A, Gagnon D, Coderre D, Bhereur P (1990) Responses of seven hardwood tree species to herbicide, rototilling, and legume cover at two southern Quebec plantation sites. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 20:1172–1182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Cogliastro A, Gagnon D, Bouchard A (1997) Experimental determination of soil characteristics optimal for the growth of ten hardwoods planted on abandoned farmland. Forest Ecology and Management 96:49–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Cogliastro A, Benjamin K, Bouchard A (2006) Effects of full and partial clearing, with and without herbicide, on weed cover, light availability, and establishment success of white ash in shrub communities of abandoned pastureland in southwestern Quebec, Canada. New Forests 32:197–210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Commission d’étude sur la gestion de la forêt publique québécoise (2004) Rapport: commission d’étude scientifique, technique, publique et indépendante, chargée d’examiner la gestion des forêts du domaine de l’État. QuébecGoogle Scholar
  25. Crow TR, Buckley DS, Nauertz EA, Zasada JC (2002) Effects of management on the composition and structure of northern hardwood forests in upper Michigan. Forest Science 48:129–145Google Scholar
  26. Derioz P (1994) Friches et terres marginales en basse et moyenne montagne. Revers sud-oriental du Massif central. Thèse de Ph.D. Université d’Avignon, AvignonGoogle Scholar
  27. Dérioz P (1991) Espaces en friches, paysages temporaires, paysages en changement. Géopoint 90:133–138Google Scholar
  28. de Steven D (1991) Experiments on mechanisms of tree establishment in old-field succession: seedling survival and growth. Ecology 72:1076–1088CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Domon G, Bouchard A (2007) The landscape history of Godmanchester (Quebec, Canada): two centuries of shifting relationships between anthropic and biophysical factors. Landscape Ecology 22:1201–1214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Donald PF, Green RE, Heath MF (2001) Agricultural intensification and the collapse of Europe’s farmland bird populations. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 268:25–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Environnement Canada (2003) Canadian Climate Normals or Averages 1971–2000. Available at:
  32. Globensky Y (1987) Géologie des basses terres du Saint-Laurent. MM 85-02. Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources du Québec, QuébecGoogle Scholar
  33. Gluck P (2000) Policy means for ensuring the full value of forests to society. Land Use Policy 17:177–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Gluck P, Humphreys D (2002) Research into national forest programmes in a European context. Forest Policy and Economics 4:253–258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Höchtl F, Lehringer S, Konold W (2005) “Wilderness”: what it means when it becomes a reality—a case study from the southwestern Alps. Landscape and Urban Planning 70:85–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Houerou HNL (1993) Land degradation in Mediterranean Europe: can agroforestry be a part of the solution? A prospective review. Agroforestry Systems 21:43–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kaltenborn BP, Bjerke T (2002) Associations between environmental value orientations and landscape preferences. Landscape and Urban Planning 59:1–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Karjalainen E, Komulainen M (1998) Field afforestation preferences: a case study in northeastern Finland. Landscape and Urban Planning 43:79–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kassioumis K, Papageorgiou K, Christodoulou A, Blioumis V, Stamou N, Karameris A (2004) Rural development by afforestation in predominantly agricultural areas: issues and challenges from two areas in Greece. Forest Policy and Economics 6:483–496CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kortenkamp KV, Moore CF (2001) Ecocentrism and anthropocentrism: moral reasoning about ecological commons dilemmas. Journal of Environmental Psychology 21:261–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kristensen SP, Thenail C, Kristensen L (2001) Farmers’ involvement in landscape activities: an analysis of the relationship between farm location, farm characteristics and landscape changes in two study areas in Jutland, Denmark. Journal of Environmental Management 61:301–318CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Kristensen LS, Thenail C, Kristensen SP (2004) Landscape changes in agrarian landscapes in 1990s: the interaction between farmers and the farmed landscape. A case study from Jutland, Denmark. Journal of Environmental Management 71:231–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Labrecque M, Teodorescu TI (2003) High biomass yield achieved by Salix clones in SRIC following two 3-year coppice rotations on abandoned farmland in southern Quebec, Canada. Biomass and Bioenergy 25:135–146Google Scholar
  44. Lasanta T, Gonzàlez-Hidalgo JC, Vicente-Serrano SM, Sferi E (2006) Using landscape ecology to evaluate an alternative management scenario in abandoned Mediterranean mountain areas. Landscape and Urban Planning 78:101–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Laurent C (1992) L’agriculture et son territoire dans la crise. Thèse de doctorat. Université de Paris VII, ParisGoogle Scholar
  46. Li X, Wilson SD (1998) Facilitation among woody plants establishing in an old field. Ecology 79:2694–2705CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Liou V (1991) Méthode d’approche des friches dans le parc naturel régional du Pilat. Revue de Géographie de Lyon 66:55–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. MacDonald D, Crabtree JR, Wiesinger G, Dax T, Stamou N, Fleury P, Gutierrez Lazpita J, Gibon A (2000) Agricultural abandonment in mountain areas of Europe: environmental consequences and policy response. Journal of Environmental Management 59:47–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. MacDonald DW, Tattersall FH, Service KM, Firbank LG, Feber RE (2007) Mammals, agri-environment schemes and set-asides-what are the putative benefits? Mammal Review 37:259–277Google Scholar
  50. Messier C, Bigué B, Bernier L (2003) Using fast-growing plantations to promote forest ecosystem protection in Canada. Unasylva 54:59–63Google Scholar
  51. Ministère des Ressources naturelles (1996) Rapport sur l’état des forêts québécoises 1990–1994. À l’heure du développement durable. Une foresterie en constante évolution. Direction des relations publiques. Ministère des Ressources naturellesGoogle Scholar
  52. Naveh Z, Lieberman AS (1994) Landscape ecology. Theory and application, 2nd edn. Springer-Verlag, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  53. Paquette S, Domon G (2003) Changing ruralities, changing landscape: exploring social recomposition using a multi-scale approach. Journal of Rural Studies 19:425–444CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Poyatos R, Latron J, Llorens P (2003) Land use and land cover change after agricultural abandonment. Mountain Research and Development 23:362–368CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Primdahl J (1999) Agricultural landscapes as places of production and for living in owner’s versus producer’s decision making and the implications for planning. Landscape and Urban Planning 46:143–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Rouay-Hendrickx P (1991) La perception de la friche: étude méthodologique. Revue de Géographie de Lyon 66:27–37Google Scholar
  57. Roura-Pascual N, Pons P, Etienne M, Lambert B (2005) Transformation of rural landscape in the eastern Pyrenees between 1953 and 2000. Mountain Research and Development 25:252–261CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Roy L, Paquette S, Domon G (2005) La campagne des néoruraux: motifs de migration, territoires valorisés et usage de l’espace domestique. Recherches Sociographiques 46:35–66Google Scholar
  59. Schultz PW, Zelezny L (1999) Values as predictors of environmental attitudes: evidence for consistency across 14 countries. Journal of Environmental Psychology 19:255–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Soucy-Gonthier N, Marceau D, Delage M, Cogliastro A, Domon G, Bouchard A (2003) Détection de l’évolution des superficies forestières en Montérégie entre juin 1999 et août 2002 à partir d’images satellitaires Landsat-TM. Rapport. Institut de Recherche en Biologie Végétale, MontréalGoogle Scholar
  61. Stover ME, Marks PL (1998) Successional vegetation on abandoned cultivated and pastured land in Tompkins County, New York. Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society 125:150–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Tahvanainen L, Ihalainen M, Hietala-Koivu R, Kolehmainen O, Tyrväinen L, Nousiainen I, Helenius J (2002) Measures of the EU agri-environmental protection scheme (GAEPS) and their impacts on the visual acceptability of Finnish agricultural landscapes. Journal of Environmental Management 66:213–227Google Scholar
  63. Tatoni T, Roche P (1994) Comparison of old-field and forest revegetation dynamics in Provence. Journal of Vegetation Science 5:295–302CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. ter Braak CJF, Smilauer P (2002) CANOCO reference manual and CanoDraw for Windows user’s guide: software for canonical community ordination (version 4.5). Microcomputer Power, Ithaca, NYGoogle Scholar
  65. Thompson S, Barton M (1994) Ecocentric and anthropocentric attitudes toward the environment. Journal of Environmental Psychology 14:149–157CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Wilson GA (1992) A survey on attitues of landholders to native forest on farmland. Journal of Environmental Management 34:117–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karyne Benjamin
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • André Bouchard
    • 2
  • Gérald Domon
    • 1
  1. 1.Chaire en Paysage et environnement, Faculté de l’AménagementUniversité de MontréalQuébecCanada
  2. 2.Institut de recherche en biologie végétale, Département des sciences biologiquesUniversité de MontréalQuébecCanada

Personalised recommendations