From vineyards to feedlots: a fund-flow scanning of sociometabolic transition in the Vallès County (Catalonia) 1860–1956–1999

Inés Marco, Roc Padró, Claudio Cattaneo, Jonathan Caravaca, Enric Tello

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19 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

© 2017, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. We analyse the changes to agricultural metabolism in four municipalities of Vallès County (Catalonia, Iberia) by accounting for their agroecosystem funds and flows during the socioecological transition from organic to industrial farming between the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The choice of three different stages in this transition allows us to observe the transformation of its funds and flows over time, the links established between them and the effect on their energy profiles. We emphasize the relevance of the integration and consistency of agroecosystem funds for energy efficiency in agriculture and their role as underlying historical drivers of this socioecological transition. While readjustment to market conditions and availability and affordability of external inputs are considered the main drivers of the transition, we also highlight the role of societal energy and nutritional transitions. An analysis of advanced organic agriculture c. 1860 reveals the great effort required to reproduce soil fertility and livestock from the internal recirculation of biomass. Meanwhile, a balance between land produce and livestock densities enabled the integration of funds, with a positive impact on energy performance. The adoption of fossil fuels and synthetic fertilizers c. 1956 reduced somewhat the pressure exerted on the land by overcoming the former dependence on local biomass flows to reproduce the agroecosystem. Yet external inputs diminished sustainability. Partial dependence on external markets existed congruently with internal crop diversity and the predominance of organic over industrial farm management. A shift towards animal production and consumption led to a new specialization process c. 1999 that resulted in crop homogenization and agroecological landscape disintegration. The energy returns of this linear feed-food livestock bioconversion declined compared to earlier mixed farming. Huge energy flows driven by a globalized economy ran through this agroecosystem, provoking deep impacts at both a local and external scale.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)981-993
JournalRegional Environmental Change
Volume18
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018

Keywords

  • Energy return on investment (EROI) in farm systems
  • Integrated land-use management of agroecosystems
  • Regional specialization
  • Sociometabolic profiles
  • Sustainability

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