Cultural oak landscapes as green infrastructure for human well-being

Abstract: Human and nature interactions have been the ancestral normative model to provide and secure livelihoods worldwide. Hence, humans have been coevolving in an intrinsic relation with the natural system until medieval times. The mentioned interactions has formed the so-called cultural landscapes as a result of human gradual re-organization and adaptation of the biophysical system to adapt its use and spatial structure better to changing societal demands. Concerned to balance sustainable development of landscapes among its social, economic and environmental dimensions, as well as aware of the important role of landscapes as key elements for individual and social well-being through their protection, management and planning, the Council of Europe agreed to develop the European Landscape Convention. We review first methods and tools to fully capture the extent of cultural ecosystem services (ES) (Paper I), to focus thereafter on the diagnosis of the cultural oak landscape in Östergötland (Sweden) (Paper II). We identified and analyzed the diversity of ES important for stakeholders at local and regional levels that represent different societal sectors. The private sector locally emphasized provisioning ES, whereas the civil and public sectors highlighted the importance of cultural services in terms of recreational values and landscape beauty. Supporting services were considered only in relation to biodiversity, especially species and habitats linked to old oaks. Hotspot of ES were found and discussed in terms of green infrastructures for human well-being. Traditional farming practices are in a steady regression which entails greater uncertainty for the long term survival of such systems and associated diversity of delivered services and values. Solutions, including adaptations of modern farming techniques to better mimic the traditional use of oak landscapes are urgently needed, as well as systematic comparative studies with reference systems, and the generation of additional income through alternative rural development initiatives such as tourism and recreation. Complex realities demand multi-disciplinary methods and approaches to find viable ground-based solutions. We suggest holistic research methods, hands on with stakeholders, i.e. transdisciplinary research, to satisfy the increasingly complex needs, improved understanding of conservation objectives and demands of a changing society

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