Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 24, Issue 13, pp 3201–3216 | Cite as

Agricultural landscapes and biodiversity conservation: a case study in Sicily (Italy)

  • G. Baiamonte
  • G. Domina
  • F. M. Raimondo
  • G. Bazan
Original Paper


The diversity of life is made up not only of the diversity of plants and animal species, habitats and ecosystems, but also of the diversity of human cultures. These diversities interact with one another in complex ways and express the mutual adaptation between humans and the environment at local level. Sicilian traditional agro-ecosystems, due to the history of the territory and the resulting social and economic context, are configured in a heterogeneous mosaic rich in residual features of environmental value, which enhance the connectivity of the ecological network and support a high proportion of species that are rare or of conservation concern. As a case study we analyzed the characteristics of the cultural and natural landscape of the Madonie Mountains (Sicily), acknowledged as one of the most relevant biodiversity hotspots in the Mediterranean. In a G.I.S. environment, we created a digital naturalness grid map and a floristic map including extensive data collected in field. We measured landscape naturalness degree, using the Naturalness Evaluation Index, and analysed its relationship with plant species distribution. We produce evidence that the cultural processes that shape a traditional landscape can foster an amount of specific richness disproportionate to the area covered. The presence of even limited surfaces with remnant semi-natural vegetation cover, scattered within the agricultural land mosaic, positively affects biodiversity. Therefore, we suggest that environmental management plans and policies aimed at nature and biodiversity conservation should take into account not only natural and semi-natural habitats but also the key role of agro-ecosystems.


Ecology Naturalness evaluation index Plant mapping G.I.S. Biocultural diversity 



The authors would like to thank Prof. R. Schicchi for his precious comments and for generously sharing unpublished data. Funds from the Project Habitagri (cod. 2012-ATE-0489), co-financed by the University of Palermo and Forum Plinianum, are gratefully acknowledged.


  1. Abate B, Di Stefano E, Ferruzza G, Incandela A, Renda P (1993) Fase tettonica pliocenica nelle Madonie (Sicilia centro-settentrionale). Riv Min Sicil 6:37–45Google Scholar
  2. Agnoletti M (2007) The degradation of traditional landscape in a mountain area of Tuscany during the 19th and 20th centuries: implications for biodiversity and sustainable management. For Ecol Manag 249:5–17. doi: 10.1016/j.foreco.2007.05.032 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Angermeier PL (2000) The natural imperative for biological conservation. Conserv Biol 14:373–381. doi: 10.1046/j.1523-1739.2000.98362.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baiamonte G, Bazan G, Raimondo FM (2009) Land mosaic naturalness evaluation: a proposal for European landscapes. In: Breuste J, Kozovà M, Flinka M (eds) 70 Years of landscape ecology in Europe—European landscape in transformation challenges for landscape ecology and management. European IALE Conference, Salzburg (Austria)Google Scholar
  5. Bazan G, Brullo S, Raimondo FM, Schicchi R (2010) Le serie di vegetazione della Regione Sicilia. In: Blasi C (ed) La vegetazione d’Italia. Palombi Editori, Roma, pp 429–470Google Scholar
  6. Bazan G, Marino P, Guarino R, Domina G, Schicchi R (2015) Bioclimatology and vegetation series in Sicily: a geostatistical approach. Ann Bot Fenn (in press)Google Scholar
  7. Bennett AF (1998) Linkages in the landscape: the role of corridors and connectivity in wildlife conservation, IUCN—The World Conservation Union, Gland (Switzerland)Google Scholar
  8. Bignal EM, Mc Cracken DI, Corrie H (1995) Defining European low-intensity farming systems: the nature of farming. In: Bignal EM, Mc Cracken DI, Wenlock SE (eds) Farming on the edge: the nature of traditional farmland in Europe. Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Peterborough, pp 29–37Google Scholar
  9. Blasi C (2007) Patterns of biodiversity. In: Blasi C, Boitani L, La Posta S, Manes F, Marchetti M (eds) Biodiversity in Italy. Palombi Editori, Roma, pp 35–37Google Scholar
  10. Blasi C, Zavattero L, Marignani M, Smiraglia D, Copiz R, Rosati L, Del Vico E (2008) The concept of land ecological network and its design using a land unit approach. Plant Biosyst 142:540–549. doi: 10.1080/11263500802410892 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brullo S (1984) Contributo alla conoscenza della vegetazione delle Madonie (Sicilia settentrionale). Boll Accad Gioenia Sci Nat Catania 16:351–420Google Scholar
  12. Council of Europe (2000) European landscape convention and explanatory report. Council of Europe, FlorenceGoogle Scholar
  13. Fabbri P (1997) Natura e cultura del paesaggio agrario. Città Studi edizioni, MilanoGoogle Scholar
  14. Forman RTT (1995) Land mosaics. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  15. Giardina G, Raimondo FM, Spadaro V (2007) A catalogue of plants growing in Sicily. Bocconea 20:1–582Google Scholar
  16. Guarino R, Menegoni P, Pignatti S, Tulumello S (2015) A territorial contradiction. In: Gambino R, Peano A (eds) Nature policies and landscape policies: towards and alliance. Urban Landsc Perspect 18:69–76. doi:  10.1007/978-3-319-05410-0_7
  17. Hampicke U (2006) Efficient conservation in Europe’s agricultural countryside. Rationale, methods and policy reorientation. Outlook Agric 35:97–105. doi: 10.5367/000000006777641598 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Heath MF, Tucker GM (1995) Ornithological value and pastoral farming systems. In: McCracken DI, Bignal EM, Wenlock SE (eds) Farming on the edge: the nature of traditional farmland in Europe. Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Peterborough, pp 54–59Google Scholar
  19. Ingegnoli V (2002) Landscape ecology: a widening foundation. Springer, BerlinCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. IUCN (2003) Guidelines for application of IUCN red list criteria at regional levels: version 3.0. IUCN Species Survival Commission, Gland (CH) and Cambridge (UK)Google Scholar
  21. Jenks GF (1967) The data model concept in statistical mapping. Int Yearb Cartogr 7:186–190Google Scholar
  22. Lomba A, Guerra C, Alonso J, Honrado JP, Jongman R, McCracken D (2014) Mapping and monitoring high nature value farmlands: challenges in European landscapes. J Environ Manag 143:140–150. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2014.04.029 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Machado A (2004) An index of naturalness. J Nat Conserv 12:95–110. doi: 10.1016/j.jnc.2003.12.002 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Maffi L (ed) (2001) On biocultural diversity: linking language, knowledge, and the environment. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  25. Marino P, Guarino R, Bazan G (2012) The Sicilian taxa of Genista sect. Voglera and their phytosociological framework. Flora Mediterr 22:169–190. doi: 10.7320/FlMedit22.169 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Marino P, Castiglia G, Bazan G, Domina G, Guarino R (2014) Tertiary relict laurophyll vegetation in the Madonie mountains (Sicily). Acta Bot Gallica 161:47–61. doi: 10.1080/12538078.2013.870047 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Massa R, Baietto M, Bottoni L, Padoa-Schioppa E (2004) Conservazione della biodiversità nei paesaggi culturali. XIV Congresso della Società Italiana di Ecologia, SienaGoogle Scholar
  28. McGarigal K, Cushman SA, Neel MC, Ene E (2002) FRAGSTATS: spatial pattern analysis program for categorical maps. University of Massachusetts, AmherstGoogle Scholar
  29. Medail F, Quezel P (1997) Hot-spots analysis for conservation of plant biodiversity in the Mediterranean Basin. Ann Mo Bot Gard 84:112–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Médail F, Quézel P (1999) Biodiversity hotspots in the Mediterranean Basin: setting global conservation priorities. Conserv Biol 13:1510–1513. doi: 10.1046/j.1523-1739.1999.98467.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Moss D, Wyatt BK (1994) The CORINE Biotopes Project: a database for conservation of nature and wildlife in the European community. Appl Geogr 14:327–349. doi: 10.1016/0143-6228(94)90026-4 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Olsson EGA, Thorvaldsen P (2006) The eider conservation paradox in Tautra—a new contribution to the multidimensionality of the agricultural landscapes in Europe. Environ Sci Policy 9:343–349. doi: 10.1016/j.envsci.2006.02.001 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Pedrotti F (2013) Plant and vegetation mapping. Springer-Verlag, BerlinCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Phillips A (1998) The nature of cultural landscapes—a nature conservation perspective. Landsc Res 23:21–38. doi: 10.1080/01426399808706523 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Pinna M (1977) Climatologia. UTET, TorinoGoogle Scholar
  36. Plieninger T, Höchtl F, Spek T (2006) Traditional land-use and nature conservation in European rural landscapes. Environ Sci Policy 9:317–321. doi: 10.1016/j.envsci.2006.03.001 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Raimondo FM (1984) On the natural history of the Madonie mountains. Webbia 38:29–52. doi: 10.1080/00837792.1984.10670294 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Raimondo FM (1988) Stato delle conoscenze floristiche nella Sicilia al 1987. In: Pedrotti F (ed) 100 anni di ricerche botaniche in Italia. Firenze, Società Botanica Italiana, pp 637–665Google Scholar
  39. Raimondo FM, Di Gristina E (2007) Hieracium madoniense (Asteraceae)—a new species from Sicily. Plant Biosyst 141:86–92. doi: 10.1080/11263500601153982 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Raimondo FM, Surano N, Schicchi R (2004) Carta del paesaggio e della biodiversità vegetale del Parco delle Madonie (Sicilia). Nat Sicil 28:71–137Google Scholar
  41. Raimondo FM, Domina G, Spadaro V (2010) Checklist of the vascular flora in Sicily. Quad Bot Amb Appl 21:189–252Google Scholar
  42. Raimondo FM, Bazan G, Troia A (2011) Taxa a rischio nella flora vascolare della Sicilia. Biogeographia 30:229–239Google Scholar
  43. Raimondo FM, Castellano G, Bazan G, Schicchi R (2012) Sorbus madoniensis (Rosaceae), a new species from Sicily. Plant Biosyst 146:345–351. doi: 10.1080/11263504.2012.729763 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Rivas Martinez S (1994) Bioclimatic classification system of the Earth. Folia Bot Matr 12:1–23Google Scholar
  45. Schicchi R, Ilardi V, Bazan G, Marino P, Castellano G, Surano N (2008) Descrizione biologica dell’area del Piano di gestione. In: Schicchi R (ed) Piano di gestione “Monti Madonie” Regione Siciliana and Università degli Studi di Palermo, PalermoGoogle Scholar
  46. Vos W, Meekes H (1999) Trends in European cultural landscape development: perspectives for a sustainable future. Landsc Urban Plan 46:3–14. doi: 10.1016/S0169-2046(99)00043-2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Wrbkaa T, Erbb KH, Schulzb NB, Peterseila J, Hahna C, Haberlb H (2004) Linking pattern and process in cultural landscapes. An empirical study based on spatially explicit indicators. Land Use Policy 21:289–306. doi: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2003.10.012 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. Baiamonte
    • 1
  • G. Domina
    • 2
  • F. M. Raimondo
    • 3
  • G. Bazan
    • 3
  1. 1.Arcadia University – The College of Global StudiesGlensideUSA
  2. 2.Department of Agricultural and Forest SciencesUniversity of PalermoPalermoItaly
  3. 3.Department of Biological, Chemical and Pharmaceutical Science and TechnologyUniversity of PalermoPalermoItaly

Personalised recommendations