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Human Ecology

, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp 587–601 | Cite as

Catholicism and Conservation: The Potential of Sacred Natural Sites for Biodiversity Management in Central Italy

  • Fabrizio Frascaroli
Article

Abstract

The connection between religion, nature and conservation has become a prominent topic among scholars and conservation practitioners. Numerous studies have shown that spiritual beliefs have contributed to preserving important biodiversity in sacred areas around the world. In Western contexts, however, that link has been underexplored, perhaps due to a common view of Christianity as anti-naturalistic. Here, I rely on a literature review and first-hand observations to identify patterns and trends characterizing Catholic sacred sites in Central Italy. I show that a high proportion of the sites are located in natural areas, and that some types of sites and strands of Catholicism are associated with natural settings more frequently than others. Further, these natural sacred sites often display ecological features that highlight their important conservation role. Greater awareness and consideration of local spiritual heritages are recommended to guarantee more effective and integrated management of the sites.

Keywords

Conservation Sacred natural sites Biodiversity Religion and nature Central Italy 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I wish to express my gratitude to Marcus Hall and Bernhard Schmid for the invaluable assistance and support with developing this study. I also thank Claudia Rutte, Shonil Bhagwat, Matthias Diemer, Vita de Waal, and Mary Colwell for the many stimulating discussions, Timothy Paine for insightful feedback on statistical analyses and data visualization, and Katia Marsh for the excellent photography (photos 5c and 7a-c). Finally, I am grateful to two anonymous reviewers, whose comments greatly strengthened and improved this manuscript. My research is funded by the Research Foundation of the University of Zurich.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental StudiesUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland

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