Fonderflick, J., Lepart, J., Caplat, P., Debussche, M. & Marty, P. (2010).
Biodiversity and landscape dynamics under different scenarios of agricultural changes: a case study in a Mediterranean upland.
Biological Conservation 143(3): 737-746.
In many parts of the world, particularly in Europe, agriculture has shaped landscapes. How do you shape a landscape? Do you change soil depth? Do you change the vegetation that grows in some places, for instance putting a meadow here, a woodland there and stone walls everywhere? As every ecologist should know, landscapes do in turn affect biodiversity. Different landscapes offer (or not) habitats for different arrays of species through vegetation composition and structure. In Mediterranean Europe, regular agricultural practices for thousands of years have produced a very specific biodiversity. These practices are now changing under different political and economical influences. This study aimed to assess the effect of different agricultural policy scenarios on landscape dynamics and the associated biodiversity on a Mediterranean upland. We based our scenarios on “narratives” or point-of-views commonly found amongst stakeholders in the study area. All are then the expression of what people think will happen in the next 40 years.
We ended up with four scenarios:
- Business-as-usual: keeping current policies strongly oriented towards production;
- Liberalisation: European policies disappear entirely / open market;
- Management for biodiversity: policies that support environmentally friendly agriculture; and
- Management for wilderness: policies that encourage farmers to sell land to let spontaneous dynamics be.
We projected landscape changes under each scenario by using GIS-based models, and combined modelling and expert knowledge to assess their consequences on biodiversity. We then asked stakeholders to give their point of view on the whole process. As was expected, biodiversity-oriented policies appear as the only way to conserve species associated with open landscapes, that are unique (in ecological jargon these species exhibit high endemism). The “wilderness” scenario led to homogenisation of the species pool by replacement of open habitat species with more common forest species. In addition, stakeholders showed a great interest in the biodiversity conservation scenario, as it is the only one that would also conserve traditional activities and social networks in the area.