Assessing the social-ecological resilience of High Nature Value farmlands in space and time: challenges and perspectives

Authors and Affiliations: 

Angela Lomba1,2, David I. McCracken2, Francisco Moreira1,3
1CIBIO-Inbio, Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos da Universidade do Porto, Campus Agrário de Vairão, R. Padre Armando Quintas, nº7, 4485-661 Vairão, Portugal
2 Hill & Mountain Research Centre, Scotland’s Rural College, Auchincruive, Ayr KA6 5HW, United Kingdom
3 CEABN-InBIO, Centro de Ecologia Aplicada ‘Professor Baeta Neves’, Instituto Superior de Agronomia, Universidade de Lisboa, Tapada da Ajuda, 1349-017 Lisboa, Portugal

Corresponding author: 
Angela Lomba

Agriculture is a major driver of global change of the Anthropocene. Over the 20th century, population growth and increasing demand for food production placed an unprecedented demand on agriculture, with expansion and intensification resulting in high costs for world’s natural capital e.g. degradation of land and water, climate change and erosion of biodiversity and ecosystem services. At the same time, the potential role of traditional farmlands for supporting biodiversity and provision of multiple ecosystem services has been widely acknowledged (Power, 2010; Swinton et al., 2007).
Built on the natural capital of wild biodiversity, traditional, extensively managed farmlands and underlying social-ecological systems result from the intertwined relation between man and nature through centuries (Plieninger and Bieling, 2012). Due to the recognized role in the maintenance of biodiversity and its habitats, extensively managed farmlands – High Nature Value farmlands (HNVf; Lomba et al., 2014) – have been highlighted in the scientific and politic arenas as essential to protection of the rural environment by enhancing resilience and providing multiple ecosystem services.
Adapted to local environmental conditions and characterized by a rich cultural and natural heritage, HNVf are especially vulnerable to social-ecological changes, mostly reflected as the cessation of traditional farming practices, either in favour of agricultural intensification or abandonment (Queiroz et al., 2014). Such changes, mostly those driven by socioeconomic drivers (policies and market; Dorresteijn et al., 2015), put the persistence and social-ecological sustainability of traditional farms at risk (Fischer et al., 2012; Plieninger and Bieling, 2013; Queiroz et al., 2014).
Recent research has been tackling the backbone characteristics of HNV farming systems, aiming to overcome conceptual and methodological caveats e.g. (Lomba et al., 2014), a key challenge to foster HNVf social-ecological sustainability in the future.
Here, results from ongoing case-studies focusing the dynamics of HNV farmlands in space and time will be presented (Lomba et al., 2017; Ribeiro et al., 2016). By considering several levels of ‘natural value’ e.g. provision and dynamics of ecosystem services, and accounting for their vulnerability and resilience in the face of uncertain future, results are expected to contribute to the optimization of the design, implementation and evaluation of rural development programs. We expect that this would foster the EU strategy of positively discriminating and supporting farmers in their efforts to ensure the conservation and improvement of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the context of socio-economic and social-ecological change. This research is being developed within FARSYD project – ‘FARming SYstems as tool to support policies for effective conservation and management of high nature value farmlanDs’; POCI-01-0145-FEDER-016664- PTDC/AAG-EC/5007/2014.


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