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Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 87–95 | Cite as

Olive groves: ``The life and identity of the Mediterranean''

  • Angeliki LoumouEmail author
  • Christina Giourga
Article

Abstract

Olive tree cultivation in theMediterranean goes back to ancient times. Evensince the Roman Age, olive cultivation spreadto the entire Mediterranean basin. Thislongevous tree integrates and identifieseconomically, socially, and culturally theinhabitants of this basin and determines itsrural landscape. For the residents of theMediterranean, olive oil constituted the mainsource of nutritional fats, their most valuableexport product, and was identified with theirculture. Even now, olive cultivation has amultiple importance for the Mediterranean. Theolive groves, which grow mostly on inclined,shallow, and low fertility soils, and onhand-made stone terraces, have limited wateringrequirements and sustain the fragile naturalresources of the Mediterranean. Today,olive cultivation in the Mediterranean is anadditional income source and supports thepopulation in rural areas during the winterperiod, which profit from summer and seatourism activity. Although anagro-ecosystem, the olive grove resembles thenatural Mediterranean ecosystem and abandonmenttransforms them into natural Mediterranean typeforests. Their change of use from olivecultivation to pasture degrades the ecosystemand decreases the natural resources, because ofover-grazing. At this time, two major factorsthreaten the traditional olive cultivation (i)the competition of the intensive olive grovesin plain and irrigated areas and (ii) thecheaper seed-oils, which intensify theabandonment of traditional olive groves andchange them into pasture, resulting in thedeterioration of the ecosystem. Olivecultivation has left its mark on life in theMediterranean and has contributed to thesustainability of natural resources.Nevertheless, it succumbs under the pressure ofcurrent socioeconomic situations. Today, theconservation of olives in productionconstitutes a necessity for the fragileMediterranean ecosystems and a challenge foreverybody involved.

Olive groves culture Olive groves environment Olive oil and nutrition Mediterranean basin Sustainable agriculture 

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental StudiesUniversity of the Aegean, Xenia BuildingUniversity Hill, MytileneGreece
  2. 2.Department of Environmental StudiesUniversity of the AegeanMytiliniGreece

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