Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 981–993 | Cite as

From vineyards to feedlots: a fund-flow scanning of sociometabolic transition in the Vallès County (Catalonia) 1860–1956–1999

  • Inés MarcoEmail author
  • Roc Padró
  • Claudio Cattaneo
  • Jonathan Caravaca
  • Enric Tello
Original Article


We analyse the changes to agricultural metabolism in four municipalities of Vallès County (Catalonia, Iberia) by accounting for their agroecosystem funds and flows during the socioecological transition from organic to industrial farming between the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The choice of three different stages in this transition allows us to observe the transformation of its funds and flows over time, the links established between them and the effect on their energy profiles. We emphasize the relevance of the integration and consistency of agroecosystem funds for energy efficiency in agriculture and their role as underlying historical drivers of this socioecological transition. While readjustment to market conditions and availability and affordability of external inputs are considered the main drivers of the transition, we also highlight the role of societal energy and nutritional transitions. An analysis of advanced organic agriculture c. 1860 reveals the great effort required to reproduce soil fertility and livestock from the internal recirculation of biomass. Meanwhile, a balance between land produce and livestock densities enabled the integration of funds, with a positive impact on energy performance. The adoption of fossil fuels and synthetic fertilizers c. 1956 reduced somewhat the pressure exerted on the land by overcoming the former dependence on local biomass flows to reproduce the agroecosystem. Yet external inputs diminished sustainability. Partial dependence on external markets existed congruently with internal crop diversity and the predominance of organic over industrial farm management. A shift towards animal production and consumption led to a new specialization process c. 1999 that resulted in crop homogenization and agroecological landscape disintegration. The energy returns of this linear feed-food livestock bioconversion declined compared to earlier mixed farming. Huge energy flows driven by a globalized economy ran through this agroecosystem, provoking deep impacts at both a local and external scale.


Energy return on investment (EROI) in farm systems Integrated land-use management of agroecosystems Sociometabolic profiles Regional specialization Sustainability 



This work springs from the international research project on Sustainable Farm Systems: Long-Term Socio-Ecological Metabolism in Western Agriculture funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada SFS 895-2011-1020. Some parts have been supported by the Spanish research project HAR2015-69620-C2-1-P (MINECO/FEDER). We thank Vera Sacristán and Geoff Cunfer for their support in drawing Figs. 3 and 4, Andrew Watson for language editing and the editor and two anonymous referees for providing valuable comments on the manuscript. We also thank the help received from the Arxiu Històric de Terrassa and Arxiu Comarcal del Vallès Occidental.

Supplementary material

10113_2017_1172_MOESM1_ESM.docx (938 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 938 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Inés Marco
    • 1
    Email author
  • Roc Padró
    • 1
  • Claudio Cattaneo
    • 2
  • Jonathan Caravaca
    • 3
  • Enric Tello
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Economic History, Institutions, Policy and World EconomyUniversity of BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Barcelona Institute of Regional and Metropolitan Studies (IERMB), Edifici MRAAutonomous University of BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Environmental SciencesUniversity of BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain

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