Story | 27 May, 2019

Can agricultural practices help to preserve biodiversity in Mediterranean “cultural landscapes”?

According to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, a cultural landscape is the expression of a long and intimate relationship between peoples and their natural environment and the result of a combined work between nature and humankind.  Likewise, the European Landscape Convention (ELC) of the European Council defines a cultural landscape as a “common good that contributes to the quality of life and well-being”. Some traditional practices are said to “contribute to create landscapes that are highly biodiverse and whose maintenance warrants the conservation of biodiversity and natural resources.”

Following the ELC concept, the MAVA Foundation - a major funding partner of conservation projects - has created a programme to promote “cultural practices that shape the cultural landscapes which in turn, harbour biodiversity and preserve natural capital” in the Mediterranean Basin.

IUCN-Med participates in this programme with actions that will improve the knowledge and monitoring of biodiversity, and recently participated in the project’s Steering Committee held on 6-9 April 2019 in Menorca (Spain). This meeting allowed to review the progress of the activities and participants also got the chance to visit the farms under the stewardship program, which is supervised by Grup Balear d'Ornitologia i Defensa de la Naturalesa (GOB).

This initiative is dedicated to monitoring 5 pilot actions in different areas of the Mediterranean region, including the agdal meadows in the Moroccan High Atlas, the Island of Lemnos in Greece, agricultural terraces in the Lebanese Al-Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve, the grazing pastures in Portugal (montados) and Spain (dehesas), as well as the island of  Menorca in Spain.

In Menorca, the partner organisation works with farm owners to reach agreements and helps them sell their produce in return. Furthermore, efforts are made to mobilize local stakeholders and build a collective knowledge database. The ultimate goal of this project is to achieve a deep understanding of the link between cultural farming practices and biodiversity. In fact, the current lack of data on how to demonstrate the role of unique farming techniques in preserving proper ecosystem functioning is driving agricultural landscapes to 2 polarized situations: either abandonment or intensification, despite the importance maintaining the equilibrium of the system.

Further partners of this initiative are: Asociación Transhumancia y Naturaleza, DiversEarth, Global Diversity Foundation, GOB Menorca, MAVA Foundation, MedINA, SPNL, Yolda Initiative, Mediterranean Consortium for Nature and Conservation, Shouf Biosphere Reserve, WWF España and WWF North Africa.

For further details, please contact Marcos Valderrábano or Mercedes Muñoz.