The role of traditional management practices in shaping a diverse habitat mosaic in a mountain region of Northern Spain

Sara Guadilla-Sáez, Manuel Pardo-de-Santayana, Victoria Reyes-García

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10 Citations (Scopus)


© 2019 Elsevier Ltd Through traditional practices that typically impact the surrounding natural areas, rural communities worldwide have created and maintained landscapes forming a diverse mosaic of species-rich habitats. In Europe, where a high portion of species is dependent on the persistence of traditional rural landscapes, the progressive abandonment of agricultural activities has been often accompanied by a biodiversity decline, although the precise implications of landscape transformation for species and habitat conservation are not sufficiently well-known. This study applies ethnobiological and historical data collection methods (i.e., semi-structure interviews, participation in public meetings, literature review, and participant observation) to examine changes in traditional management practices and local perceptions of impacts on ecosystems diversity derived from the abandonment of traditional land uses in a mountain region in Spain that preserved a complex traditional farming system until the mid-20th century. Data were analysed using qualitative content analysis and quantitative data analysis methods. Our results illustrate that traditional management practices, such as hay making, pastoralism of small ruminant livestock, lopping, prescribed burns, gathering of firewood, branch beating, or beekeeping, are locally perceived as favourable to habitat diversity. Our study also reveals that local perception of landscape changes in the area dovetails with scientific information, providing further understanding of the particular ecological implications of each underlying driver of land use change identified. We conclude that the combination of local and scientific knowledge on ecological dynamics can help in the development of effective regional conservation strategies based on management practices simultaneously favourable to biodiversity and economically profitable. Our study provides evidence that rural communities can be a valuable source of information to document landscape historical dynamics and to monitor environmental changes, which might be particularly relevant for landscape-orientated conservation policies aiming to prevent the biodiversity loss resulting from the abandonment of traditional land uses.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104235
JournalLand Use Policy
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


  • Biodiversity conservation
  • Oral history
  • Rural landscape
  • Traditional knowledge


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