BIOLANDSCAPES “Agroecological history for designin sustainable landscapes. Case studies from the Mediterranean world”. Finançat pel Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad, RTI2018-093970-B-C32 (2019-2021)

Over the last six decades, industrial farming has led to a loss of land cover diversity and landscape degradation all over Spain. This entails a worrisome bio-cultural loss of an age-old legacy of site-specific knowledge, farm practices, landscape mosaics, crop varieties, livestock breeds and cultural foodscapes that peasants had accumulated over centuries. There is a consensus in European Union on the need to promote sustainable agriculture and, consequently, to link back to the territory the provision of basic environmental services of agroecosystems, now outsourced, such as the conservation of genetic diversity, of pest and disease control and the replenishment of soil fertility among others. Such services are provided optimally through organic management of agroecosystems but also through the proper management of landscapes, where the physical-biological cycles that ensure the sustainability of agricultural production are closed.

Consequently, the management of agroecological territories requires a land-use planning performed on a larger scale than at farm gate level, a task for which there is hardly any accumulated knowledge. The comparative study of past and present agricultural landscapes, associated with larger units of cultural management of agrarian systems in their historical dimension, can be extremely useful for this purpose. In Spain the degree of transformation of agroecosystems has been very deep, and current agricultural systems are becoming increasingly homogeneous and far from the edaphoclimatic and cultural conditions of their territory. This urges a multidisciplinary historical study of the long-term evolution of these agricultural landscapes, together with the recovery of farm knowledge on the labour practices that created and maintained these agroecosystems.

In this sense, history can cooperate to rescue peasant and scientific knowledges about landscape organization through the study of past agrarian systems. This study requires the use of historiographic techniques in combination with other disciplines such as Agroecology and Landscape Ecology to produce a novel Landscape Agroecology. The methodologies developed by our teams that make possible this biophysical and spatial analyses (MEFA, LACAS, ELIA and others) can contribute, together with historical analysis of their drivers and trends, to rescue the knowledge of traditional agricultural systems management and to cooperate in designing more sustainable landscapes. Moreover, applying this knowledge to organic farming can help to improve its sustainability degree, and to reduce production costs improving the viability of this type of agriculture that will undoubtedly become the agriculture of the future. Only multidisciplinary teams can address such a complex research topic, addressed by a new type of Sustainability History able to bring together Natural and Social Sciences with Humanities. For the development of this project, several representative cases of the main agricultural systems of the Mediterranean area will be chosen. The territorial requirements of organic farms in their landscapes will also be analyzed through the study of a representative group of them. The results will be discussed and applied with representatives of the autonomous and local administrations, farmer associations and organic farming certification entities.