Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 24, Issue 13, pp 3167–3183 | Cite as

Biodiversification as an historical process: an appeal for the application of historical ecology to bio-cultural diversity research

Original Paper

Abstract

In the context of recent appeals for the adoption of historical perspectives emerging in environmental and conservation studies, ‘biodiversification processes’ would be considered as specific historical and historiographical topics. However, as highlighted in this paper, a broader discussion of the biodiversification processes as historical processes is needed. This paper discusses some consequences that are presented during the study of biodiversification processes when focusing on the links between cultural and biological diversity at the individual landscape level rather than on an overview of the current literature on the subject. In this discussion, we briefly underline dissimilarities in the methods adopted in historical ecology to those in the conventional historical approach nurtured in global environmental history where biodiversification processes, as subjects of historical study, are largely ignored or subsumed into general observations concerning global change or embedded in presumed ahistorical ‘traditional’ economies and practice systems. Such a broad reassessment is required before multi- or inter-disciplinary applications seek to answer ‘common questions’ (Szabó, Environ Conserv 37:380–387, 2010) in the field of environmental and cultural conservation studies. This paper comments on field and documentary evidence collected during multidisciplinary historical ecology approaches to research in the Northern Apennines (Italy) and Pyrenees (Franco-Spanish) sites. These site-level investigations suggest that medieval and post-medieval changes in local practices and systems of environmental resource production and activation appear to have been key drivers in co-related variations observed in the past biodiversity dynamics of the sites. In order to corroborate the sedimentary evidence (or traces of evidence) concerning taxonomic and habitat changes, historical ecology has proposed the adoption of a local approach in which a specific historical analysis and use of documentary and archival sources—as well as the archaeological and sedimentary evidence—has posed a number of new questions to the traditional use of archival and textual sources by professional historians. In doing so, it becomes clear that when observed at a local, topographical site-scale or on an individual landscape-scale, the links between biological and cultural diversity appear more clearly as historical products, rather than broad co-evolutionary issues relating to the ‘co-evolution of nature and culture’. These historically produced links between biological and cultural diversity—identified as biodiversification processes that can be uncovered and explored through the adoption of approaches from historical ecology—are the driving forces that ‘generate’ processes of circulation in local ecological knowledge and its related practices.

Keywords

Biodiversification Bio-cultural landscapes Historical ecology Environmental history Field and documentary sources Local practices Placed knowledge Liguria 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Università degli Studi di Scienze GastronomicheBraItaly
  2. 2.Laboratorio di Archeologia e Storia Ambientale (LASA), Dipartimento di Antichità, Filosofia e Storia (DAFIST) & Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, dell’Ambiente e della Vita (DISTAV)Università degli Studi di GenovaGenoaItaly

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