Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 24, Issue 13, pp 3217–3251 | Cite as

Long-term bio-cultural heritage: exploring the intermediate disturbance hypothesis in agro-ecological landscapes (Mallorca, c. 1850–2012)

  • Joan MarullEmail author
  • Enric Tello
  • Nofre Fullana
  • Ivan Murray
  • Gabriel Jover
  • Carme Font
  • Francesc Coll
  • Elena Domene
  • Veronica Leoni
  • Trejsi Decolli
Original Paper


We applied an intermediate disturbance-complexity approach to the land-use change of cultural landscapes in the island of Mallorca from c. 1850 to the present, which accounts for the joint behaviour of human appropriation of photosynthetic capacity used as a measure of disturbance, and a selection of land metrics at different spatial scales that account for ecological functionality as a proxy of biodiversity. We also delved deeper into local land-use changes in order to identify the main socioeconomic drivers and ruling agencies at stake. A second degree polynomial regression was obtained linking socio-metabolic disturbance and landscape ecological functioning (jointly assessing landscape patterns and processes). The results confirm our intermediate disturbance-complexity hypothesis by showing a hump-shaped relationship where the highest level of landscape complexity (heterogeneity connectivity) is attained when disturbance peaks at 50–60 %. The study proves the usefulness of transferring the concept of intermediate disturbance to Mediterranean cultural landscapes, and suggests that the conservation of heterogeneous and well connected land-use mosaics with a positive interplay between intermediate level of farming disturbances and land-cover complexity endowed with a rich bio-cultural heritage will preserve a wildlife-friendly agro-ecological matrix that is likely to house high biodiversity.


Cultural landscape Bio-cultural heritage Disturbance ecology Human appropriation of net primary production Socio-ecological transition Biodiversity conservation 



This work has been supported by the research project HAR2012-38920-C02-02 funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, and the international Partnership Grant SSHRC-895-2011-1020 ‘Sustainable farm systems: long-term socio-ecological metabolism in western agriculture’ funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. We also thank the comments received in the oral presentation made in the European Conference on ‘Linking Biological and Cultural Diversity in Europe’ held in Florence (08-11/04/2014) for the Implementation of the UNESCO-SCBD Joint Programme on Biological and Cultural Diversity.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Barcelona Institute of Regional and Metropolitan StudiesAutonomous University of BarcelonaBellaterraSpain
  2. 2.Department of Economic History and InstitutionsUniversity of BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Department of GeographyUniversity of the Balearic IslandsPalmaSpain
  4. 4.Research History InstituteUniversity of GironaGironaSpain
  5. 5.Department of MathematicsAutonomous University of BarcelonaBellaterraSpain
  6. 6.Department of Urban PlanningUniversity IUAV of VeniceVeniceItaly

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