A socio-ecological approach to support the management of High Nature Value farmlands: lessons from the study of an extensive sheep grazing system

Authors and Affiliations: 

Aitor Andonegi (1, 2), Eneko Garmendia (2,3) and Arantza Aldezabal(1)

(1) Department of Plant Biology and Ecology, University of the Basque Country, UPV/EHU, Leioa, Basque Country, Spain.
(2) Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3), Leioa, Basque Country, Spain.
(3) Department of Applied Economics I, University of the Basque Country, UPV/EHU, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Basque Country, Spain.

Corresponding author: 
Aitor Andonegi

Rural landscapes in Europe are changing due to the globalization of the food system, new policies like the CAP (Common Agriculture Policy) and evolving rural lifestyles, among others. These changes are remarkable in mountainous areas where, the sustainability of traditional pastoral systems, like extensive sheep grazing systems, and the associated benefit for the society and the environment are at serious risk due to these changing conditions. In order to better understanding the challenges faced by these systems and ensure their sustainability we require a transdisciplinary approaches that are capable to analyze the issue at hand from multiple perspectives simultaneously. Using as a case study the Aralar Natural Park (Basque Country), which is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), part of the European Natura 2000 network, and home of a millenary pastoral system, we develop and test the suitability of a multi-criteria evaluation frameworks that integrates socio-economic, institutional and ecological criteria to support the management of a High Nature Value farmland system. Base in a critical assessment of this experience, the article will show how this evaluation framework can help to assess alternative management options and diverse scenarios from multiple perspectives and under changing local and global conditions.


Aldezabal, A., Moragues , L., Odriozola, I. eta Mijangos , I. 2015. Impact of grazing abandonment on plant and soil microbial communities in an Atlantic mountain grassland. Applied Soil Ecology. 96:251-260.

DeFries, R., Hansen, A., Turner, B.L., Reid, R. and Liu, J.2007. Land use change around protected areas: management to balance human needs and ecological function. Ecological Applications, 17:1031-1038.

Eisler M.C., Lee M.R., Tarlton J.F., et al., 2014. Agriculture: Steps to sustainable livestock. Nature, 507 (7490): 32-4.

Etxano, I., Garmendia, E., Pascual, U., et al. 2015. A participatory integrated assessment approach for planning and managing Natura 2000 network. Environment And Planning C-Government And Policy. 33. 1207 – 1232.

Garmendia, E., Gamboa, G., Franco, J., Garmendia, J. Liria, P., Olazábal, M., 2010. Social multi-criteria evaluation as a decision support tool for integrated coastal zone management. Ocean and Coastal Management 53: 385–403.

Mendizabal, M. 2009. Análisis de los factores determinantes del uso de pastos de montaña por herbívoros domésticos y su aplicación en modelos de gestión sostenible para el País Vasco. Tesis doctoral, UPV/EHU, Leioa.

Munda, G., 2004. Social multi-criteria evaluation: Methodological foundations and operational consequences. European Journal of Operational Research 158(3): 662-677.

Munda, G., 2005. Multiple criteria decision analysis and sustainable development. In: Figueira, J., Salvatore, G., Ehrgott, M. (Eds.), Multiple Criteria Decision Analysis: State of the Art Surveys. Springer, New York.

Naylor, R., Steinfeld, H., Falcon, W., Galloway, J., Smil, V., Bradford, E., et al. 2005. Losing the links between livestock and land. Science. 130: 1621-1622.

Odriozola, I., García-Baquero, G., Laskurain, N.A. eta Aldezabal, A. 2014. Livestock grazing modifies the effect of environmental factors on soil temperature and water content in a temperate grassland. Geoderma 235–236, 347–354.

Rounsevell, M.D.A. , Reginster, I. , Araújo, M.B. , Carter, T.R., Dendoncker, N., Ewert, F., House, J.I., Kankaanpää, S., Leemans, R. , Metzger, M.J., Schmit, C., Smith, P. eta Tuck, G. 2006. A coherent set of future land use change scenarios for Europe. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 114: 57-68.

Oral or poster: 
Oral presentation
Abstract order: