Rural Landscapes: The Historical Roots of Biodiversity

Part of the Environmental History book series (ENVHIS, volume 1)


From the point of view of historical ecology, the biodiversity of rural landscapes is revealed especially when their individual historical dimension is explored directly in the field (Rackham, Ancient woodland. Its history, vegetation and uses in England, 1980, Rackham, The History of the Countryside, 1986; Moreno, Dal documento al terreno. Storia e archeologia dei sistemi agro-silvo-pastorali, 1990). A historical perspective can recognize the environmental systems and processes that shape each rural landscape as true functional nodes—or, rather, “areas”—in a more general historical process of “environmental biodiversification” (Ingold et al., Nature knowledge: ethnoscience, cognition and utility, 2003; Cevasco, Memoria verde. Nuovi spazi per la geografia, 2007). Obviously, under adequate conditions of efficiency, agrarian landscapes can play a direct role in the preservation of “agricultural biodiversity”. It is less well-known, however, that by reconstructing the historical role of agricultural, silvicultural and zootechnic practices in local processes of biodiversification we can, even today, mobilize an even vaster resource-pool of “Rural Landscapes of Historical Interest” (RLHI), which constitute a potential resource for the providing of new services in the field of biodiversity. Today RLHIs are largely fragmented and their productive efficiency is only partial, they have been deprived of their scenic qualities and are confined within local systems often regarded as economically marginal. Such is the situation for RLHIs in several Italian regions. They hence require specific agricultural policies (Agnoletti, Cultural Heritage and Sustainable Forest Management: the role of traditional knowledge, 2006)—which so far have been lacking—recognizing and promoting the “positive externality” or “added value” coupled with local production systems, as well as the practices and contextual knowledge of the producers who are presently managing them (Magnaghi, Memoria verde. Nuovi spazi per la geografia, 2007).


Rural Landscape Ancient Wood Genetic Heritage Ancient Woodland Mountain Agriculture 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centro Analisi Storica Territoriale Dipartimento Politiche pubbliche e scelte collettiveUniversità degli Studi del Piemonte OrientaleAlessandriaItaly
  2. 2.Laboratorio di Archeologia e Storia Ambientale, Dipartimento storia Moderna e ContemporaneaUniversità degli Studi di GenovaGenovaItaly

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