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Context Global dynamics affect the sustainability of agricultural landscapes, but these cross-scale connections are understudied. Therefore, we combine food systems and landscape ecology, focusing on food products that provide a linkage between global consumers and landscapes of production (e.g., Douro Valley wine) which we call landscape products. Objective The aim of this study is to characterise Mediterranean landscape products based on experts’ perceptions by analysing their qualities, farming practices, and value chains, and to identify their ecological, cultural, and socio-economic outcomes in the landscapes of production. Methods Experts with specific knowledge on a landscape product were surveyed by email and their answers analysed using descriptive and ordination statistics. Fifty-four landscape products were characterised. Results Based on the experts’ perceptions, landscape products are high quality products, mainly using traditional knowledge and low intensity farming. They support biocultural diversity in the landscapes of production, but their positive socio-economic outcomes remain limited, with problems of inequity and lack of empowerment among producers and a tendency towards intensification or abandonment of the farming practices. We distinguished three types of products based on their localness and how their qualities were shared with consumers. Local products performed better in the ecological and cultural outcomes and products under certification in the economic. Labelling mechanisms and better organisation of producers could enhance these products and their positive outcomes. Conclusions Combining landscape ecology and food systems research allowed us better understand the outcomes of landscape products in the landscapes of production and suggest pathways for fostering landscape sustainability.
Linking food systems and landscape sustainability
in the Mediterranean region
´a Garcı
´n.Mario Torralba .Cristina Quintas-Soriano .
Johannes Kahl .Tobias Plieninger
Received: 29 January 2020 / Accepted: 19 November 2020 / Published online: 8 December 2020
The Author(s) 2020
Context Global dynamics affect the sustainability of
agricultural landscapes, but these cross-scale connec-
tions are understudied. Therefore, we combine food
systems and landscape ecology, focusing on food
products that provide a linkage between global
consumers and landscapes of production (e.g., Douro
Valley wine) which we call landscape products.
Objective The aim of this study is to characterise
Mediterranean landscape products based on experts’
perceptions by analysing their qualities, farming
practices, and value chains, and to identify their
ecological, cultural, and socio-economic outcomes in
the landscapes of production.
Methods Experts with specific knowledge on a
landscape product were surveyed by email and their
answers analysed using descriptive and ordination
statistics. Fifty-four landscape products were
Results Based on the experts’ perceptions, landscape
products are high quality products, mainly using
traditional knowledge and low intensity farming. They
support biocultural diversity in the landscapes of
production, but their positive socio-economic out-
comes remain limited, with problems of inequity and
lack of empowerment among producers and a ten-
dency towards intensification or abandonment of the
farming practices. We distinguished three types of
products based on their localness and how their
qualities were shared with consumers. Local products
performed better in the ecological and cultural
outcomes and products under certification in the
economic. Labelling mechanisms and better organi-
sation of producers could enhance these products and
their positive outcomes.
Conclusions Combining landscape ecology and
food systems research allowed us better understand
the outcomes of landscape products in the landscapes
of production and suggest pathways for fostering
landscape sustainability.
Keywords Landscape products Social-ecological
systems Telecouplings Food systems Landscape
ecology Landscape sustainability
Supplementary Information The online version contains
supplementary material available at
M. Garcı
´n(&)T. Plieninger
Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural
Development, University of Go
¨ttingen, Platz der
¨ttinger Sieben 5, 37073 Go
¨ttingen, Germany
M. Torralba C. Quintas-Soriano T. Plieninger
Faculty of Organic Agricultural Sciences, University of
Kassel, Steinstraße 19, 37213 Witzenhausen, Germany
J. Kahl
Faculty of Organic Agricultural Sciences, University of
Kassel, Nordbahnhofstr. 1a, 37213 Witzenhausen,
Landscape Ecol (2021) 36:2259–2275,-volV)(0123456789().,-volV)
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
Global change in agricultural landscapes is a major
sustainability concern. Agricultural landscape change
is driven by a multitude of (typically closely inter-
linked) processes. First, agricultural land is expanding
globally, converting natural and semi-natural ecosys-
tems and thus compromising biosphere integrity and
ecological processes in land systems (Steffen et al.
2015). Second, rising societal needs for food, feed,
fibres, and fuels also lead to an intensification of
agriculture (Erb et al. 2013). Third, an increasing
amount of (often fertile) agricultural land is sealed and
converted to cities, with substantial impacts on
agricultural production, biodiversity, and ecosystem
services (Seto et al. 2012). At the same time, large-
scale processes of de-intensification, forest expansion,
and designation of protected areas are taking place,
often leading to a polarisation of intensification and
abandonment of agriculture (Plieninger et al. 2016).
Consequently, competition for land, land-use con-
flicts, and trade-offs between human needs and
agricultural landscape functions have become critical
topics for landscape ecology.
Agricultural landscape changes—though mani-
fested at local levels—are increasingly driven by
globally interconnected economies and markets for
food products and other agricultural commodities
which act across large distances and create interac-
tions between regions (Meyfroidt et al. 2013). The
complexity of these connections between distant
places (so-called telecouplings Liu et al. 2013) pose
not only threats but also opportunities for landscape
sustainability (e.g., regarding biodiversity, land use,
poverty reduction, and water scarcity). For instance,
increased world trade in biofuels triggers agricultural
expansion across large distances, often resulting in
losses of ecosystems and biodiversity. On the other
hand, the growing demand from urban consumers for
high-quality and sustainable food products can drive
land-use decisions in remote places, improving rural
livelihoods and promoting multifunctional landscapes
(Rueda and Lambin 2013). Thus, the characteristics of
food systems, and in particular the trade-offs around
them, show complex linkages to landscape
Food products that originate from specific distinct
landscapes (termed ‘landscape products’ herein) rep-
resent a particular case (Ilbery and Kneafsey 1999).
These products are deeply linked to the local identity
and landscape character of the places of production
and are part of a ‘quality turn’ in food consumption by
parts of society in Europe and beyond (Goodman
2002). Examples of these landscape products from the
Mediterranean region are olive oil produced in the
Greek island of Lesvos; ham from acorn-fed pigs
raised in wooded pastures in Extremadura, Spain; and
wine produced in the Portuguese Alto Douro region.
Although landscape products are usually traded on
niche markets, they can offer leverage points for
promoting sustainable management of producer land-
scapes when they have high market values and
cultivation is tied to specific regions (le Polain de
Waroux and Lambin 2013). However, while the role
of mass-market food products has been widely studied
(e.g., for palm oil or soybeans; Boerema et al. 2016;
Furumo and Aide 2017), little is known about how
these landscape products may contribute to landscape
sustainability in the places of production.
Landscape ecology and food systems are two
research areas in which an interdisciplinary, sys-
tems-oriented research approach is taken, with the
former centred on configuration and functioning of
landscapes (Christensen et al. 2017) and the latter
focussed on the production, processing, retailing, and
consumption of food (Ingram 2011). Food system
studies evidence an interest in studying the places
from which foods originate (Barham and Sylvander
2011; Bowen and Mutersbaugh 2014; Berriss 2019),
and some landscape ecological studies have in turn
investigated the landscape ecological dynamics
around food and agricultural production at large
ˆt et al. 2012; Smith et al. 2013). However,
landscape ecology and food systems studies have not
thus far been linked through a comprehensive and
systematic framework.
The aim of this study is to bring together landscape
ecology and food systems approaches to explore the
connections between different properties of food
systems and multiple landscape sustainability out-
comes in the Mediterranean region, using landscape
products as a critical link between distant places and
processes. To do so, we define the following research
1. How are Mediterranean landscape products char-
acterised based on the shared attributes of their
food systems?
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2. What are the ecological, cultural, social, and
economic landscape sustainability outcomes of
these landscape products, and what synergies and
trade-offs arise among them?
3. What different types of food systems can be
identified and how do they relate to the landscape
sustainability outcomes?
The assumption underlying this research is that
food systems and landscapes are a crucial but under-
utilized nexus for evaluating the connections between
people and the environment. We consider that an in-
depth understanding of these couplings will benefit
both landscape ecology and food system research to
foster landscape sustainability.
Study area: the Mediterranean region
We focus on the Mediterranean region to study the
linkages between food systems and landscape sustain-
ability. Mediterranean landscapes are very diverse in
food systems (the Mediterranean diet has been
declared an intangible cultural heritage of humanity;
UNESCO 2013) and are a global hotspot of biological
diversity (Myers et al. 2000). At the same time, the
Mediterranean region is most critically affected by
global environmental changes, in particular by soil
degradation and water shortages (Underwood et al.
2009). Mediterranean farming landscapes have
resulted from a very long human history that interacts
with highly varied physiography, soil, and climate,
thus becoming archetypes of closely coupled social–
ecological systems. Mediterranean traditional agricul-
ture is dominated by agro-silvo-pastoral mosaic sys-
tems that cover approximately 23% of the land (Malek
and Verburg 2017). Spatial–temporal interactions
between agricultural, pastoral, and forestry compo-
nents typically result in a high resource use efficiency,
high biodiversity values, a large assortment of com-
modities, and other ecosystem services. Many
Mediterranean farming systems are thus considered
to be multifunctional and of high nature value (Pinto-
Correia and Vos 2004). It is also a region characterised
by contrasts: While landscapes at the southern fringe
of the Mediterranean (especially in the productive
plains) are predominantly exposed to increasing land-
use pressures and competition for land, many farm-
lands in the northern Mediterranean countries (espe-
cially in the less productive mountain areas) have been
affected by land abandonment (Debolini et al. 2018).
Furthermore, many of the major ongoing socio-
economic challenges are taking place in this region
regarding demographic trends, political stability, and
socio-economic realities (King et al. 2014). Given
these social–ecological contrasts, the Mediterranean
region provides a useful microcosm for the study of
different food systems and agricultural landscapes.
According to the Landscape Ecology journal, land-
scape ecology is an interdisciplinary research field that
integrates the biophysical and socioeconomic
sciences, conceptualises landscapes as coupled
human–environment systems, and applies such a lens
in answering research questions around the ecology,
conservation, management, design/planning, and sus-
tainability of landscapes. While investigating the
relationship between spatial pattern and ecological
processes is at the heart of landscape ecology,
sustainability has become a key concept and research
priority in this field (Musacchio 2013;Wu2019).
Landscape ecology informs sustainability through
spatially explicit approaches; consideration of multi-
ple scales; integration of stakeholders’ knowledge,
values, and concerns; and social–ecological systems
thinking (Opdam et al. 2018). The term ‘landscape
sustainability science’ emphasises the linkages
between landscape ecology and sustainability science,
and there is a discussion as to whether landscape
sustainability science should be understood as part of
landscape ecology or as a distinct field (Wu 2013).
Food systems comprise sets of activities that
include production and consumption of food (Ericksen
2008; Ingram 2011). According to UNEP (2016)a
food system approach allows the food chain activities
to be linked to their social and environmental contexts,
including institutional dimensions (rules and regula-
tions), jurisdictional dimensions, and administrative
dimensions (provincial, national, intergovernmental).
Therefore, food systems are recognised as coupled
human–environment systems (Liu et al. 2007) and
especially as complex social–ecological systems
(Ostrom 2009; Foran et al. 2014; Tendall et al. 2015;
Allen and Prosperi 2016). For Ostrom (2009), the
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challenge of taking a systems approach to food is to
identify and analyse the relationships among multiple
levels of these complex systems at different spatial and
temporal scales. Food systems as complex adaptive
systems are ‘composed of many heterogeneous pieces,
whose interactions drive system behaviour in ways
that cannot easily be understood from considering the
components separately’ (Nesheim et al. 2015, p. 287).
In this view, landscapes may also be taken as an
inherent part of food systems, whether as a pre-
requisite, a driver, or an outcome. Therefore, we go
beyond a food chain approach and study food chain
and landscape sustainability components in
Figure 1presents the framework used in this study,
which comprises food systems and landscape sustain-
ability as central pillars that are connected through
landscape products. We define landscape products as
products that originate in a distinct landscape and
typically are sold at prices higher than those of usual
agricultural commodities (le Polain de Waroux and
Lambin 2013). In our analysis of food systems and
their linkages to landscape sustainability through
landscape products, the following are of particular
the product qualities, such as the geographic origin
of the product, the traits associated with it (e.g.,
healthy, organic, gourmet, or traditional; le Polain
Fig. 1 Elements considered to connect food with landscape sustainability through landscape products
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de Waroux and Lambin 2013; Renting et al. 2003),
the product identity in reference to the territory of
production, and the existence of any certification;
the farming practices that are underpinning the
landscape product, as related to the intensity of
production systems and associated land covers, the
size of the producers, and the presence of farmers’
cooperatives (Ostrom 2007);
the value chain characteristics, including produc-
ing, processing, distributing, and retailing goods to
consumers (Gereffi et al. 2005). These include the
way in which the qualities of the product are
communicated to the consumer (e.g., personal
interaction, regional identity, certifications; Rent-
ing et al. 2003), and aspects related to the length of
the value chain such as the distribution channels
(e.g., farmers sell directly to consumers or farmers
sell to retailers or distributors), where the packag-
ing and processing takes place (i.e., within or
outside the landscape of production), and the
geographic distance to the market (e.g., regional
and local markets or national and international
markets; Schmitt et al. 2016).
As we take a special focus on sustainability, we
refer to sustainable food systems using the consensus
definition of the High Panel of Experts on Food
Security and Nutrition (HLPE 2014, p. 31): ‘Sustain-
able food system (SFS) is a food system that ensures
food security and nutrition for all in such a way that the
economic, social, and environmental bases to generate
food security and nutrition of future generations are
not compromised’. In this study, our focus is on the
sustainability of the food system at a landscape of
production level. We thus divide the landscape
sustainability outcomes of food systems into:
ecological outcomes which consider how farming
practices contribute to aspects related to biodiver-
sity, water, and soil preservation in the landscapes
of production;
cultural outcomes which include the role of the
landscape products in the local culture (e.g., by
maintaining traditional ways of farming, the local
ecological knowledge, and links to traditional
festivals and community events), the local identity
associated with landscape products, and local
social outcomes which take into account the age
and gender balance among producers and aspects
connected to the organisation and relationships
along the value chain: farmer empowerment
(whether farmers are involved in the determination
of the operational rules), equity in the distribution
of the profits obtained from the landscape product,
and farmers’ collective action; and
economic outcomes which look at the importance
of landscape products and associated activities
(cultivation, processing, and retailing/distribution)
for local employment and farmers’ incomes, at
landscape product prices with respect to mass
market equivalents, and at the role of landscape
products for the tourist sector.
Survey design
To study these linkages between food and landscapes,
we performed an online survey that targeted food and
landscape experts from different disciplines and
multiple Mediterranean countries. Experts were asked
to select a landscape product they know well and its
landscape of production and provide information on
all the components presented in Fig. 1. We left it to the
understanding of the respondents as to how they
delimited a production landscape. However, in order
to ensure that all respondents had a similar under-
standing of the objects of the survey, we provided an
extended introduction at the beginning of the survey
that included examples of products and landscapes
from different areas in the Mediterranean. The survey
was created using the online platform ‘Limesurvey’
( and was structured into
the following main sections: i) identification of the
product and the landscape of production; ii) charac-
terisation of the food system; and iii) sustainability
outcomes in the landscapes of production divided into
ecological, cultural, social, and economic outcomes
(see Supplementary Materials 1 for the full survey).
We also asked respondents about their visions and the
conflicts they identify around their chosen landscape
To select the respondents, we compiled a list of
researchers through internet keyword searches (a
combination of sustainability and food systems con-
cepts) looking at existing literature and the agricul-
ture- and landscape-related departments of
universities across the Mediterranean region. We
targeted the largest research institutes and departments
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in every Mediterranean country and selected the
profiles of the most relevant respondents based on
their lines of work and publication records. In
addition, we followed a snowball sampling approach
in which respondents were asked to suggest other
contacts. Experts were defined as those survey recip-
ients who had developed a role as a scientist or
practitioner in the topics of food systems or landscape
sustainability for a specific product or landscape in the
We sent an email to all of the experts with a non-
personalised link to the survey, which was also
distributed by social media. The survey could only
be started after the participant had read and accepted a
note of consent which explained how their answers
were going to be used and stored. The responses to the
survey were anonymous. The survey campaign took
place from May to July 2019, and two reminders were
sent out during that time. Completion of the survey by
the respondents took between 30 min and one hour. A
total of 286 experts were invited to take the survey, 73
provided answers and after deleting incomplete
responses, 54 cases (representing each a landscape
product and a landscape of production) were kept for
the analysis (response rate of 19%). Most of the
respondents (80%) reported high or medium expertise
on the topic. Eighty percent of the respondents were
scientists and the rest producers and workers in a non-
governmental organizations or local government.
Data analysis
We used frequency analyses to describe the land-
scapes of production and the characteristics shared by
the landscape products as related to their food systems
and the landscape sustainability outcomes in the
landscapes of origin. We performed Multiple Corre-
spondence Analysis (MCA), followed by a cluster
analysis, to identify patterns in the data set related to
the connections between food system characteristics
and landscape sustainability outcomes. The MCA was
carried out with the food system variables in order to
assess associations and patterns across food system
characteristics. Using those factors explaining 65% of
the inertia a cluster analysis was then conducted to
identify consistent groups of landscape products based
on shared food system characteristics (Table A1 and
Fig. A1 in Supplementary Materials 2). Lastly, we
explored the different landscape sustainability
outcomes connected to each cluster using the mean
value of each outcome on a Likert scale ranging from 1
(strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree).
Characterisation of the landscape products
and food system types
The spatial distribution of the landscape products
collected across the Mediterranean showed a high
number of cases in the western countries (59% of the
total—Spain, Portugal, Morocco, France), followed
by the central Mediterranean countries (30%—Italy,
Slovenia, Croatia, Albania, Greece, Tunisia) and
eastern Mediterranean countries (11%—Egypt, Tur-
key, Lebanon, Jordan; Fig. 2). The most common type
of landscape products selected by the experts were tree
crops (52% of the total sample—wine, olive oil,
almonds, cherries, apples, chestnuts, carob fruit, cork).
Animal products were also highly represented (24%,
with all but one of the meat products coming from
Spain). Cereals made up 13% of the total sample,
including wheat and rice. There were also some
vegetables (7%), comprising, for example, green
beans, asparagus, and tomatoes, all of them coming
from Spain.
The landscapes of production identified by the
experts were very heterogeneous in terms of size and
socio-demographic and biophysical characteristics
(from mountain areas to hilly landscapes, steep valleys,
or coastal plains; from arid steps to lush valleys; and
from sparsely populated and remoteareas to intensively
used coastal areas). Within this diversity, common
landscape development trends mentioned were: expan-
sion of tourism, increased preservation of the cultural
and natural heritage, and agricultural abandonment or
intensification (additional information about the char-
acteristics of the landscapes of production is given in
the Supplementary Materials 2, Table A2).
Landscape product qualities
Most of the landscape products identified were defined
by the experts as gourmet products (70%) associated
with a distinct landscape and to tradition narra-
tives (62%; Fig. 3a). In half of the cases (46%), the
products were exclusively grown in the area of the
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landscape of production mentioned in the survey
(Fig. 3b). Half of the products (50%) were under
labelling or certification mechanisms; of these prod-
ucts (Fig. 3b), 70% of the cases had Geographical
Indication labels, while only a few (26%) had organic
agriculture labels. The products that were most often
under certification mechanisms were wine (75% of
wine products were under certification), vegeta-
bles (75%), olive oil (71%), and cheese (67%), while
cereals and fruit trees were not often certified (only
29% and 33% of these products, respectively).
Farming practices in the landscapes of production
Most of the products identified by the experts were
grown using low intensity practices (78%; based on
manual labour, low input of agrochemicals and
machinery, etc.) with very few using high intensity
practices (13%; high input of agrochemicals and
machinery, etc.; Fig. 3c). The most common land
cover associated with the products was mosaic lands
(59%; small cultivated land parcels with different
cultivation types; Fig. 3d. Lands were mostly owned
by multiple smallholders (60%; Fig. 3e). Only in 30%
of the cases were farmers organised into cooperatives.
Value chain characteristics
The value chains of the products were very heteroge-
neous. In how the authenticity of the product was
communicated to the consumer (Fig. 3f), experts most
often mentioned reputation effects (about 60% of the
products). Remarkably, in only 16% of the cases did
the experts respond that there was no communication
of the authenticity of the product to the consumer.
Responses on the distribution channels in which the
product reached the consumer were varied (Fig. 3g).
The most frequent channel was that farmers or
farmers’ cooperatives sell the product to retailers and
distributors (80% of the cases), but it was also very
often the case that farmers and cooperatives sold
directly to consumers (69% of the cases). The
processing and packaging of the product was also
carried out in different ways (Fig. 3h). In most of the
cases (68%), processing and packaging happened
within the landscape of production (the farmers in
46% of the cases and farmers’ cooperatives in 33% of
the cases). As for the geographic distance to the
market (Fig. 3i), in 50% of the cases they were sold in
the local/regional market and in 39% at the national/
international market.
Fig. 2 Map with the geographical distribution of the landscape products by type. The graph at the bottom shows the percentage of each
product type
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Landscape sustainability outcomes
in the landscapes of production
The farming practices associated to the landscape
products were generally regarded by the experts to
lead to positive ecological outcomes in the preserva-
tion of biodiversity (82%) and water resources, not
causing water overuse (65%; Fig. 4). There was also
general agreement on the positive contributions of
landscape products to the preservation of local culture
(91%), local recipes (90%), and identity (89%).
The social outcomes were more heterogeneous. The
percentage of experts who considered that there is
gender or age balance among the food product farmers
was low (23% and 34% of the respondents, respec-
tively), as was the percentage of the experts who
considered that there is a fair profit distribution along
the value chain (27%). Outcomes connected to
collective action and participation of the farmers in
the operational rules were considered positive by
about half of the experts (46% and 53%, respectively).
We also found a variety of responses regarding the
Fig. 3 Main food system characteristics of the landscape
products: The horizontal axis represents the percentage of
landscape products (n = 54). Graphs aand bin blue relate to
product qualities; graphs cto ein green to the farming practices;
and fto iin orange to value chain characteristics
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economic outcomes. The highest percentages of
agreement were connected to the landscape product
being sold at higher prices than generic/mass market
equivalents (71%) and being the main source of
income for most farmers that cultivate it (70%); and
the lowest with the producers being better off than
other farmers (36%).
Connections between food system types
and landscape sustainability outcomes
Types of landscape products based on the food system
The results of the MCA and the cluster analysis
revealed three clusters of products based on the food
system characteristics defined by the experts (see
Supplementary Matterials 2: Table A3 for the cluster
characterisations; Table A1 and Fig. A1 for the results
of the MCA and the dendrogram of the cluster
analysis). The first cluster, named local type with
personal interaction (19 products, 35% of the total
sample), included products that were sold both directly
to consumers (74%) and to local shops and restaurants
(74%), predominately in the local and regional market
(79%), and whose authenticity was communicated to
the consumers through personal interaction and net-
works of trust (84%) and reputation effects (84%). The
packaging and processing of the product was done in
the landscape of production by farmers and farmers’
cooperatives (63%). Characteristics of this cluster
were also low intensity farming practices (95%) and
multiple small producers (79%). Products often
included in this cluster were olive oil, nuts, and cheese.
Cluster 2, named mixed type without communica-
tion (15 products, 28% of the total sample), covered
those products whose authenticity was frequently not
communicated to the consumer (60%). Landscape
products within this cluster reached the consumers
predominately through distributors and retailers (73%)
Fig. 4 Percentage of respondents that considers that the landscape product contributes to the different landscape sustainability
outcomes in the landscapes of production
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but also directly from the farmers (67%). The pack-
aging and processing was done by both farmers and
farmers’ cooperatives (67%) and by external compa-
nies outside of the landscape of production (40%).
Cluster 3, named international type with certifica-
tion mechanisms (20 products, 37% of the total
sample), represented those products that farmers and
farmers’ cooperatives sold to retailers and distributors
(95% of the products in this cluster), and most of the
produce was sold in national and international markets
(85%). Products were under certification mechanisms
(75%) and the percentage of products that were
exclusively grown in the area was the highest (65%).
Processing and packaging was mainly done by farmers
or farmers’ cooperatives (75%). As for the farming
practices, there was a mix of small and big producers
(65%), and farmers were organised in cooperatives
(75%). The percentage of products that were grown
using low intensity practices was the lowest in this
cluster (65%). A typical product in this cluster was
We did not observe a clear differentiation between
the sustainability outcomes linked to the different food
system clusters (Table 1). However, products from the
local type performed better in terms of ecological and
cultural outcomes, with mean values of 4.7 for
preservation of the local culture and 4.4 for preserva-
tion of biodiversity, with 5 as the highest value.
Products from the international type performed better
in regard to the economic outcomes, with mean values
of 4.3 for higher prices than mass market equivalents
and 4.1 for being the main source of income for
producers. The lowest levels of performance were
found for the social outcomes in the mixed cluster
type, with mean values of 2.4 for farmers’ participa-
tion in the operational rules of the value chain and 2.4
for a fair profit distribution among the actors of the
value chain.
This study represents a first approximation to combine
food systems and landscape ecology approaches to
understand how the qualities, farming practices, and
value chains of Mediterranean landscape products
allow or hinder sustainability in the landscapes of
production. Based on expert perceptions, our analysis
allowed us to identify the main characteristics shared
by particular landscape products, the differences to be
found in their food systems, and the landscape
sustainability outcomes they provide. This methodol-
ogy has previously been shown to be robust and has
been used in sustainability science (Hanspach et al.
2017), but we acknowledge that the different levels of
expertise among the respondents and their different
relations to the products may limit the validity of the
survey. This issue was addressed by including an ‘I do
not know’ option among the answers and excluding
partial surveys from the analysis. Additionally, there
was an overrepresentation of respondents from the
west Mediterranean, so that results may not be fully
representative of the whole Mediterranean.
Characteristics of the landscape products
Landscape products share many characteristics with
gourmet products (e.g., products sold at prices higher
than their mass-market equivalents), and they are also
associated with healthy, organic production, and
sustainable development narratives. Although these
qualities are important, their main trait is the connec-
tion to a distinct landscape. The farming practices
associated to the landscape products (i.e. low produc-
tion intensity, involvement of traditional knowledge
and techniques, cultivation by multiple small produc-
ers, and creation of mosaic landscapes) contribute to
maintain the distinctive character of the landscapes of
origin—that is, ‘what makes one area ‘‘different’’ or
‘distinct’’ from another’ (Swanwick 2002). In this
sense, our landscape products framework aligns with
the different initiatives and concepts that have
emerged globally around characteristic agricultural
landscapes, such as the Globally Important Agricul-
tural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) supported by the
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United
Nations (FAO), the Socio-Ecological Production
Landscapes and Seascapes (SEPLS) promoted under
the Satoyama Initiative, or the High Nature Value
farmlands (HNV) in Europe.
The communication of landscape product qualities
to consumers seems to be of great relevance. Marsden
et al. (2000) brought up the concept of ‘re-spatializing
food’ by embedding the product with information
about the landscape of production as it reaches the
consumer as opposed to ‘placeless food’ (Schmitt et al.
2017). This re-spatialization of food through informa-
tion connects consumers with the place of production
2268 Landscape Ecol (2021) 36:2259–2275
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and allows them to make conscious and informed
decisions about purchasing a product (Renting et al.
2003). The regional identity of a product was
frequently emphasised in our survey, either through
formal Geographic Indications (GI) or informal com-
munication between producers and consumers. Strate-
gies to re-spatialize products seem crucial in times of
globalisation and increasing distance between con-
sumers and landscapes of production. Thus, recon-
necting people with landscapes is a critical leverage
point for a transition towards sustainability as such
reconnection can foster a feeling of stewardship
towards landscapes (Abson et al. 2016; Garcı
et al. 2018).
Our survey identified heterogeneous value chains
as another important characteristic of landscape
products. This heterogeneity seems to be inherent in
alternative food systems due to the increasing com-
plexity and diversity in commercialisation options,
organisation of the value chains, and relationships
between producers and consumers (Marsden et al.
2000; Schmitt et al. 2016). The geographic distance to
the consumers of the products in terms of local/
regional or national/international outreach is also
varied. We identified three types of food systems
based on their more local or international reach, the
length of their value chain, and the way the authen-
ticity of the product is communicated to the con-
sumers: local landscape products with short value
chains and authenticity communicated through per-
sonal interaction; international landscape products
with long value chains and authenticity communicated
Table 1 Mean of the values of how the landscape product contributes to the different landscape sustainability outcomes in each of the
three clusters
Variables Cluster 1
Local with personal
Cluster 2
Mixed, no
Cluster 3
Internaonal with
Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD
Preserves biodiversity 4.368 0.597 4.267 0.961 3.941 1.298
outcomes Preserves water resources 4.176 0.943 3.929 1.406 2.824 1.372
Maintains soils 3.529 0.728 3.143 1.072 3.000 1.286
Preserves the local culture 4.789 0.419 4.533 0.640 4.250 1.070
outcomes Is a key ingredient in local recipes 4.667 0.686 4.467 0.640 4.350 0.988
People in the area idenfy themselves with it 4.579 0.607 4.400 0.737 4.450 0.759
There is gender balance among producers 2.947 0.705 2.800 1.014 2.579 1.017
There is age balance among producers 2.947 1.079 2.867 0.915 3.412 1.004
outcomes Value chain organisaon contributes to collecve acon 3.263 0.872 2.786 1.188 3.588 0.795
Farmers parcipate in operaonal rules 3.353 0.996 2.429 1.089 3.778 1.003
There is a fair profit distribuon along the value chain 3.059 1.029 2.429 1.284 2.938 1.063
Producers are beer off than other farmers 3.118 1.054 2.933 0.704 3.722 0.895
Aracts tourists 3.611 1.037 3.467 1.060 3.850 1.226
outcomes Employs an important proporon of local populaon 3.167 1.098 3.600 0.986 3.842 0.958
Is the main source of income of the farmers 3.278 1.074 3.667 0.724 4.150 0.745
Is sold at higher prices than mass market equivalents 3.833 0.924 3.600 0.986 4.316 0.885
Mean values (as translated from the answers to the survey in a Likert scale format from strongly disagree to strongly agree) range from
1 (strongly disagree, dark red) to 5 (strongly agree, dark green), where 5 means strong contribution and 1 means no contribution
Landscape Ecol (2021) 36:2259–2275 2269
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through certification mechanisms; and mixed products
for which there is no communication of their qualities
to consumers. This ‘local–global hybridity’ (cases in
which the local attributes and values of the product are
promoted but the product is sold in international
markets Schmitt et al. 2017) contests binary assump-
tions about conventional and global versus alternative
and local food systems (Watt et al. 2005; Beriss 2019).
Accordingly, some argue for supply chains’ in which
producers and their supply chain partners ally to
‘distribute significant volumes of high-quality, differ-
entiated food products while maintaining transparent
relationships and fair distribution of revenues’
(Ostrom et al. 2017, p. 7). This raises questions of
embeddedness, i.e. about how the different actors are
connected among each other and with the landscapes
of production (Hinrichs 2003; Renting et al. 2003). In
the case of landscape products, embeddedness goes
beyond the social dimension of producer–consumer
relations and also incorporates notions of territoriality
(sensu Sonnino 2007, p. 63: ‘the ecological and
cultural relationships that a food system has with its
territorial context’). Our findings might call for an
expansion of the concept toward telecoupled land-
scape embeddedness that connects the different actors
along and beyond the value chain through the shared
valorisation of a distinct landscape embodied in the
landscape product.
The local–global hybridity also concerns the scale
of production (Kizos 2013; Chilla et al. 2020).
Landscape products are typically small-scale products
for which entry into international niche markets might
require ‘scaling up’ of production, which may lead to
unintended ecological, socio-economic, and cultural
landscape sustainability outcomes. This also raises the
question of ‘what constitutes local’ (Beriss 2019,
p. 67) and how the locality of the product is conveyed
at different scales. In line with our results, some
authors have distinguished between local products and
localised products. Local products are commer-
cialised through short value chains and convey locality
values (e.g., care, community, and stewardship
between producers and local consumers; cluster 1 in
our sample); while localised products are anchored
within particular territories through ‘socially con-
structed, culturally marketed, and institutionally reg-
ulated’ structures that convey values of locality to
distant consumers (e.g., GIs and Slow Food; cluster 3)
(Bowen and Mutersbaugh 2014, p. 204).
We conclude that the local–global hybridity, with
an emphasis on landscape embeddedness, is one
important characteristic of landscape products.
Acknowledging the distinction between more local
and more international landscape products is impor-
tant as different products and landscapes require
different strategies.
Links between landscape sustainability outcomes
and food system characteristics
Landscape products frequently promote ecological
and cultural outcomes, which tend to happen in
parallel. This is mainly the case when low intensity
farming practices are used (common among the
products in the local cluster). In this sense, landscape
products foster biocultural diversity, ‘sustaining the
biophysical and socio-cultural components of
dynamic, interacting, and interdependent social–eco-
logical systems’’ (Gavin et al. 2015, p. 140). The
realisation of this interdependence of cultural and
biological diversity is especially relevant in the current
context of biodiversity loss and landscapes homogeni-
sation (Hanspach et al. 2020). Therefore, the concept
of landscape products appears useful to explore
linkages between the cultural practices of food
production and the ecological characteristics in the
landscapes of production (Hedberg 2015; Plieninger
et al. 2017).
Landscape products seem to be well integrated in
the socio-economic context of the landscapes of
production, employing an important proportion of
the local population and acting as the main source of
income of the local producers. However, our survey
indicated that there is rarely a fair profit distribution
and farmers often do not participate in the operational
rules. Even when there was general agreement among
respondents that higher prices are paid for landscape
products than for mass market equivalents, the
perception was still that this did not necessarily reflect
in farmersincomes. This might be explained by
aspects such as the lack of empowerment of small
producers and the fact that prices still are too low to
cover the producers’ costs (Polain de Waroux and
Lambin 2013).
Our survey demonstrated that products sold under
certification mechanisms to national and international
markets perform better in terms of economic out-
comes, with prices that probably better reflect their
2270 Landscape Ecol (2021) 36:2259–2275
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costs of production (Schmitt et al. 2016). However,
labelling was only in place for half of the landscape
products assessed and even then, experts did not
expect that the higher prices paid by consumers would
have a strong positive impact in contributing to a fair
price paid to primary producers. As claimed by some
authors, speciality or niche market products do not
necessarily stimulate endogenous economic develop-
ment (Watts et al. 2005; Kizos 2013). By relying on
international value chains for economic viability, local
producers are subordinated to the interests of the most
powerful actors along the chain that profit from the
added value that, for instance, a certification confers.
In our sample, this lack of empowerment is
especially negative when external companies take
over the processing, packaging, and distribution of the
final product and when the qualities of the product are
not communicated to the consumers, thereby making
the primary producers invisible. Some scientists and
practitioners are calling for the participation of
farmers in partnerships—collaborative arrangements
between various actors—as a way to improve their
economic situation by allowing smallholders to par-
ticipate in more remunerative value chains (Helmsing
and Vellema 2011; Schmitt et al. 2016; Kizos et al.
2017). In fact, collective action among landscape
product farmers seems to have a positive effect in the
fair profit distribution along the value chain. However,
this requires certain levels of trust and social capital
that are often lacking (Kizos et al. 2014), and in our
survey, cooperatives and collective action were not
very common among landscape product actors. Ros-
Tonen et al. (2015, p. 531) stated that farmers’ agency
resides in their capacity to ‘negotiate, interact, position
themselves and make claims vis-a
`-vis companies,
investors, NGOs and donors’. Therefore, there is a
need to understand and improve the socio-economic
situation of the producers by paying attention not only
to their vertical integration in the value chain but also
to their horizontal collaboration with non-chain actors
at a landscape level (Ros-Tonen et al. 2015).
Finally, we found that the typical social problems of
the agricultural sector in the rural Mediterranean
prevail in our sample of landscape products among the
producers, such as a lack of gender and age balance.
The masculinisation of rural areas caused by the
differences in migration behaviour between men and
women is a widespread phenomenon (Camarero and
Sampedro 2016). Gender equality is an essential
component of sustainable economic growth and
poverty reduction (FAO et al. 2010) and thereby is a
keystone in order to promote the sustainable manage-
ment of traditional agricultural landscapes.
Towards the future: How to enhance landscape
products and their sustainability outcomes?
Experts were asked to share their visions about the
future of landscape products. In most of the cases, they
mentioned serious threats to the persistence of the
products and the associated landscapes due to, on the
one hand, the dynamics of abandonment and lack of
age balance and, on the other hand, the expansion of
intensive monoculture lands and the pressures of
urbanisation and tourism; common trends in the
Mediterranean agricultural world (Agnoletti 2014;
Wolpert et al. 2020). Under these circumstances, food
systems that are well embedded in a distinct landscape
of origin can contribute to landscape preservation and
rural development (Schmitt et al. 2016). According to
Sims (2009, p. 322), local products foster sustainable
agricultural practices, local businesses, and ‘build a
‘brand’’ that can benefit the region by attracting more
visitors and investment’ and distinguish it from other
destinations. In the case of our landscapes, two aspects
need to be considered to support that claim.
One aspect is that this particularly happens in
association with the development of tourism (Nemes
et al. 2019). Our results showed that tourism is
attracted by those landscapes whose products help
preserve the biocultural diversity and that in those
cases, landscape product farmers are better off than the
other local farmers, revealing interesting synergies
between the benefits of the landscape product and the
tourism sector. However, among our landscapes, we
also observed how the expansion of tourism predom-
inately happens in areas where land abandonment is a
dominant trend. Therefore, the question remains of
whether these benefits can compare to those in rural
nonfarm activities and in cities (le Polain de Waroux
and Lambin 2013). This also poses threats to land-
scape sustainability, such as an uneven distribution of
tourism-generated wealth within the local community,
the appropriation of distinctive traditions by some
actor groups (Bowen and De Master 2011), an
overdependence on tourism (Nemes et al. 2019), and
a ‘Disneyfication’ of landscapes (Bowen and De
Master 2011). To navigate these challenges, the
Landscape Ecol (2021) 36:2259–2275 2271
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social–organisational context needs to be taken into
account, ‘ensuring the representation of all actors,
privileging local actors in the construction and gov-
ernance of protective arrangements, considering local
needs and priorities’ (Bowen and De Master 2011,
p. 81).
A second aspect to be considered is the importance
of the benefits and recognition that producers obtain as
guarantors of the distinct landscape character. ‘Value-
based food chains’ that build on shared social, cultural,
economic, environmental, or quality related product
values among the actors along the supply chain and the
fair distribution of the benefits are gaining attention
(Ostrom et al. 2017). The shared appreciation of
landscape products and distinct landscapes could act
as a boundary object that carries the values of
community and stewardship for their preservation
and builds ties between the different actors: among the
producers, between the producers and the rest of the
local actors, and between the landscapes and the
consumers (distant or not). In that regard, labelling
mechanisms that allow consumers to be aware of the
qualities of the products, even when they are far away
from the production landscapes, are of great value.
Our respondents reported how labelling contributed to
better prices and market access. An open question is
however, whether there are existing mechanisms that
could capture the qualities of landscape products and
the value of the landscape of origin as a whole to
emphasise the landscape embeddedness of the product
(Mann and Plieninger 2017; Flinzberger et al. 2020)
and include products that are not often under certifi-
cation such as cereals and fruit trees (as opposed to
cheese, olive oil, and wine). GI labelling schemes
often focus on processed (high value-added) foods and
neglect low value-added food products (Watts et al.
2005). Therefore, what we propose here is to revisit
the idea of landscape labelling proposed by Mann and
Plieninger (2017), which considers the differentiation
of the entire landscape rather than of the particular
product, allowing other local products to be consid-
ered under the label. On the one hand, this idea
captures the essence and benefits of the GI—that is,
embedding the products in their socio-cultural and
ecological local contexts, highlighting their added
value to consumers and differentiating them from the
competition, and promoting the collaboration among
producers to define quality standards (Quin
et al. 2015; Kizos et al. 2017). On the other hand, it has
at its core the integrated management of the landscape
in which multiple actors and sectors (beyond the value
chain) collaborate in a transparent and proactive way
to preserve the landscape character and multiple
landscape functions and services. Landscape products
can offer ‘all-round social, economic and environ-
mental benefits for hosts and guests’ (Sims 2009,
p. 333) and they might be supported by initiatives such
as GIAHS, SEPLS and HNV farming.
Linking food systems and landscape ecology
The need to combine different approaches to address
food sustainability issues is more and more acknowl-
edged (Hinrichs 2010; Ros-Tonen et al. 2015; Schmitt
et al. 2016). Both food systems and landscape ecology
research provide an integrative and systemic approach
to address complex sustainability challenges that
result from the interaction between ecology and
society across scales. But there are fundamental
differences in their focus and approaches, with
potential for complementarity. Food systems research
typically looks at the interactions along the value
chain and less at the interactions with non-chain actors
or the social–ecological conditions in the areas of
production (Helmsing and Vellema 2011). On the
contrary, landscape ecology originally was dedicated
to the relationships between spatial pattern and
ecological processes at multiple nested scales within
a landscape. While food systems research is usually
focused on specific food products, landscape ecology
rarely pays attention to the resulting products from the
agricultural landscapes it studies. Both fields acknowl-
edge the importance of considering institutional and
governance issues as well as socio-cultural aspects in
the study of sustainability challenges around food and
agricultural production (including knowledge sys-
tems, heritage, perceptions and values, and manage-
ment practices). Landscape ecology does so with a
strong emphasis on the inclusion of all the different
actor groups in the places of production, while food
system research puts the actors directly connected
with the food product at center.
In the framework presented here, we take the food
system as the encompassing structure that articulates
the connections between all of the elements and
processes across the telecoupled systems, linking
production landscapes with distant consumers. The
landscape ecology lens expands the analysis beyond
2272 Landscape Ecol (2021) 36:2259–2275
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the specific product to capture how it is embedded in
the landscape of production from an ecological,
economic, social, and cultural perspective. Although
not captured in this paper, the study of the ecological
outcomes of production practices is a crucial contri-
bution of landscape ecology to food systems research,
providing the tools for analysing the patterns and
processes manifested at multiple scales. At the same
time, food system approaches can contribute to the
upscaling of local landscape initiatives by reaching out
to global actors, for instance through labelling mech-
anisms and alternative distribution channels.
We conclude that the combination of landscape
ecology and food system research opens new ways to
address the challenges that the integrative analysis of
food systems poses for sustainability science. Both
fields share an interdisciplinary and system-oriented
view that acknowledges the complexity of coupled
human–environment systems but have a different
focus. Food systems provide a well-defined frame-
work to study the interactions along the value chain of
landscape products, connecting places of production
with places of consumption. Landscape ecology
allows for understanding the embeddedness of the
product and its sustainability outcomes in the land-
scapes of production from a holistic perspective by
looking beyond the product, as well as to analyse the
associated ecological processes and structures across
nested scales.
Acknowledgements The authors acknowledge the financial
support provided by the German Research Foundation, DFG,
through grant number 426675955. We thank Christian Bunn,
Lukas Flinzberger, and Franziska Wolpert for their contribution
to the survey design. We especially thank all respondents to the
survey. We are also very grateful to the editor and the two
anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback that
considerably improved the relevance of this manuscript. Prof.
Dr. Johannes Kahl passed away on 12 November 2020. He
contributed a thorough food systems perspective to this study.
We remember him as an outstanding colleague and scholar in
the field of organic food quality and food culture.
Funding Open Access funding enabled and organized by
Projekt DEAL. German Research Foundation, DFG, through
grant number 426675955.
Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative
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... More views from former farmers that have already abandoned farming would provide more depth. This is partly in line with the metaanalysis of Mediterranean farm systems by Debolini et al. (2018, p. 706-7), where abandonment is associated with extensification, but only intensification is associated with economic drivers "in particular the profitability of new or different agricultural/farming systems and the changes in market prices, mainly the price of production" (see also García-Martín et al., 2021;Wolpert et al., 2020). Here, the opposite side of this seems to be the case, as abandonment on Lesvos is associated with (lack of) economic profitability. ...
... The case studies sites are in marginal Mediterranean landscapes that are currently at the intersection of agricultural abandonment, conservation of cultural landscapes and intensification (García-Martín et al., 2021). With focus on land abandonment, two different takes can be currently identified in policies according to Dolton-Thornton (2021). ...
... Our findings further shed light on some of the complexities involved, with different responses and outcomes even in areas that from a European and global point of view (García-Martín et al., 2021) are very similar environmentally, and share very similar socioeconomic developments in terms of economic change and rural depopulation. Identifying these different responses and outcomes are key to successfully building rural development programs that need to go beyond the agricultural sector and paint a more comprehensive picture of rural livelihood and development opportunities. ...
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Farming systems in marginal or less favored areas of Europe have faced a multitude of challenges as a response to so-called "mega-trends". A typical response has been land abandonment. The focus of this paper is on the farming systems of the Greek islands of Lesvos and Lemnos. These neighboring islands are geographically very similar but differ greatly in their farming systems, resulting in different responses to the same megatrends. While land abandonment is widespread in the small-scale olive groves of Lesvos, on Lemnos specialization towards animal and dairy products is more common. We performed land cover analysis and interviews with farmers in both areas, in two complementing rounds: one more quantitative that recorded recent changes and farmer rationales and a more qualitative one that investigated longer term trends and decision-making patterns. The analysis revealed that, among others, land ownership and inheritance patterns matter in both areas in different ways, leading to diverse trajectories. On Lemnos, as part of the traditional mixed-farming system (Mandra), land leasing is dominant, separating land users and landowners. Interviews also reveal the different symbolic capital, as olive trees on Lesvos are considered a family asset and not just a land use, something that cannot be said of the leased grazing lands on Lemnos. The market value of the different products is important, but the different trajectories also demonstrate how the rationales behind the responses to mega-trends can guide which trajectories will be dominant in the area. This article highlights the complexity and mix of local drivers and global trends that drive abandonment at both farm and the landscape scales and guides the formulation and application of agricultural policies and public resources for improved management of marginal areas.
... Thus, a promising strategy for further PDO development in the Mediterranean may be to harness social-ecological synergies, by linking the improvement of rural livelihoods with the maintenance of valuable agricultural landscapes. However, for such synergies to happen, PDOs would need to support land management practices that are more clearly directed towards environmental and cultural values, such as agroforestry, low intensity and mosaic-like land use, silvopastoral grazing systems, or HNVF practices (García-Martín et al. 2021). Like HNVF, the number of tourism beds was more strongly correlated with the PDO score in the non-Mediterranean countries, pointing towards a more selective registration of PDOs in environmentally valuable and culturally unique regions. ...
... The fact that a combination of agroforestry, agricultural land with natural areas, and complex agricultural patterns showed a clear positive correlation for all sub-categories may be the consequence of PDOs coinciding with structurally and functionally diverse landscapes. Also, the occurrence of PDO hotspots on the Iberian Peninsula, in Italy, and Greece reflected this revealed relationship, as the Mediterranean Basin is recognized as an HNVF hotspot of Europe (García-Martín et al. 2021;Plieninger and Bieling 2013). ...
... Many PDOs are an inherent part of multi-functional agricultural systems. By contrast, a stronger specialization in single, internationally traded products can reduce the environmental benefits of originally sustainable landscape management (García-Martín et al. 2021). Regarding the large extent of some PDO areas being registered-for example, the Italian 'Salamini Italiani Alla Cacciatora' covering around 50% of Italy's territory, or 'Český Kmín' covering the whole of the Czech Republic-we have slight concerns too. ...
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The Geographical Indications (GIs) scheme is the EU's primary policy tool for increasing the market values of geographically distinct food products. Although GIs are linked to the landscapes of food production, little is known about the social-ecological values they represent, mainly due to a lack of spatial data. In this study, we, therefore, mapped all 638 food products labeled as Protected Designations of Origin (PDOs), using NUTS-3 areas as proxies for their actual extent, and correlated their distribution with 13 social-ecological indicators. By compiling this novel dataset, we show that the presence of PDOs strongly overlaps with environmental and cultural values. We reveal positive correlations of PDO frequency with high nature value farmland, semi-natural agriculture, tourism, and cultural heritage indicators. Further, we find that PDOs occur more often in economically weaker areas with older and declining populations. Besides differences in PDO distribution between northern and southern EU countries, we find different correlation patterns across the four largest food categories. For example, cheese and meat products are less correlated to environmental values compared to oils and fats, or fruit, vegetables and cereals. On that basis, we identify the potential of PDOs to support structurally deprived areas and propose PDOs as entry points for sustainable transformation and rural development policies-while simultaneously contributing to the conservation of cultural landscapes and their associated environmental values. As outlined in the Green Deal of the European Union and its Farm to Fork strategy, PDOs should be a part of this transformation. Based on the results of this study, we discuss more specifically for which production systems and under what enabling conditions PDOs are fit for this challenge. We recommend that future governance interventions for a sustainable transformation of EU's agriculture should take the differences across regions and product categories into account.
... As such, landscape products provide a missing link between sustainable commodities and landscape sustainability approaches (Fig. 1), bringing an embedded systems perspective to sustainable commodities and a product focus to landscape sustainability 23 . We define landscape products as products that (1) originate in a distinct landscape, (2) link to low-input practices and traditional ecological knowledge, and (3) typically sell at higher prices than mass-market equivalents 12 . Farming practices are adapted to local ecological conditions that help preserve biodiversity, water provisioning and other ecosystem services 12 . ...
... We define landscape products as products that (1) originate in a distinct landscape, (2) link to low-input practices and traditional ecological knowledge, and (3) typically sell at higher prices than mass-market equivalents 12 . Farming practices are adapted to local ecological conditions that help preserve biodiversity, water provisioning and other ecosystem services 12 . For instance, there is an established body of literature that has studied how diversified low-input farming practices have shaped structurally and functionally complex landscapes and support high levels of biodiversity, so-called 'high nature value farming' 24 . ...
Landscape products link to low-input practices and traditional ecological knowledge, and have multiple functions supporting human well-being and sustainability. Here we explore seven landscape products worldwide to identify these multiple functions in the context of food commodification and landscape sustainability. We show that a landscape products lens can improve food systems by fostering sustainability strategies and standards that are place-sensitive, and as such can mitigate conflicts related to food production, social justice and the environment. Co-management strategies and information policies, such as certification, labelling, product information and raising of awareness could accelerate, incentivize and catalyse actions to support landscape products in the context of sustainability strategies.
... As such, landscape products provide a missing link between sustainable commodities and landscape sustainability approaches (Fig. 1), bringing an embedded systems perspective to sustainable commodities and a product focus to landscape sustainability 23 . We define landscape products as products that (1) originate in a distinct landscape, (2) link to low-input practices and traditional ecological knowledge, and (3) typically sell at higher prices than mass-market equivalents 12 . Farming practices are adapted to local ecological conditions that help preserve biodiversity, water provisioning and other ecosystem services 12 . ...
... We define landscape products as products that (1) originate in a distinct landscape, (2) link to low-input practices and traditional ecological knowledge, and (3) typically sell at higher prices than mass-market equivalents 12 . Farming practices are adapted to local ecological conditions that help preserve biodiversity, water provisioning and other ecosystem services 12 . For instance, there is an established body of literature that has studied how diversified low-input farming practices have shaped structurally and functionally complex landscapes and support high levels of biodiversity, so-called 'high nature value farming' 24 . ...
Landscape products link to low-input practices and traditional ecological knowledge, and have multiple functions supporting human well-being and sustainability. Here we explore seven landscape products worldwide to identify these multiple functions in the context of food commodification and landscape sustainability. We show that a landscape products lens can improve food systems by fostering sustainability strategies and standards that are place-sensitive, and as such can mitigate conflicts related to food production, social justice and the environment. Co-management strategies and information policies, such as certification, labelling, product information and raising of awareness could accelerate, incentivize and catalyse actions to support landscape products in the context of sustainability strategies. Locally grown agricultural products have been increasingly replaced by their mass market equivalents with consequences for people and the environment. This Perspective explores how multifunctional landscape products can support human well-being and sustainability by examining seven case studies worldwide.
... In many cases, landscape sustainability was pursued by capitalizing on local practices and knowledge to adapt to the current cultural and socioeconomic context (Fischer et al. 2012;Takeuchi et al. 2016). On some occasions, landscape approaches are articulated around specific landscape products, which are products deeply linked to the local identity and landscape character, typically part of a "quality turn" in food consumption (García-Martín et al. 2020). On other occasions, the recognition of the natural and cultural values associated with landscapes enabled its support by all actors in the landscape, either by generating an added value in specific goods (e.g., certification mechanisms) or services (e.g., tourism or new forms of agri-environmental use) (Woestenburg 2018;Flinzberger et al. 2020;Plieninger et al. 2020). ...
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Landscape approaches are gaining momentum in both scientific and policy agendas. However, landscape approaches comprise a multitude of concepts, approaches and principles, which are in part similar, in some parts different or even contradictory. In this paper, we used a Q-method questionnaire to explore how landscape approaches are understood and employed in 45 case studies of socio-ecological production landscapes and seascapes derived from the International Partnership for the Satoyama Initiative (IPSI), as well as the motivations for employing them. Our analysis revealed that all landscape approaches pursued very similar goals, namely to ensure that local communities as landscape stewards have the capacity to preserve context-specific values in the face of socio-economic and environmental changes. The tools for reaching such goals are built upon people and nature feedback dynamics that crystalize in rich biodiversity and local ecological knowledge. However, our analysis also showed that the means to reach those goals differed depending on many contextual factors, such as the dominant ecosystems and socio-economic activities in the landscape, the constellation of actors or the most relevant drivers of change affecting the social–ecological system. In particular, we identified four distinct lenses in which landscapes approaches are applied in practice to landscape sustainability: (1) for the preservation of natural values, (2) for the preservation of socio-cultural values, (3) for the promotion of social justice and participatory governance, and (4) for securing food security and local livelihoods. Our results showed an association between the choice of a lens and the value types motivating the use of a landscape approach. Relational values were associated with a focus on landscape conservation and safeguard of social–ecological values. Our study highlights the relevant and beneficial role of landscape approaches as a boundary concept and emphasizes the need for transdisciplinary and participatory methods within landscape research and practice to navigate the context-specific options for implementation of landscape approaches.
... For example, TFL may have applied within a certain system boundary. However, a neighboring system, maybe a bordering country Table 3 The major themes in each sustainability topic Topic Approach # Entries (%) Main Themes TFL 1 (1%) Explore theory and amend TFL ( Walker, 2022 ) MCF 81 ( 24% ) Agricultural development of certain regions (Brazil ( da Silva et al., 2017 ), Mediterranean ( García-Martín et al., 2021 ), Africa ( Burra et al., 2021 ), California ( Marston and Konar, 2017 )) and their impact on distant places; Locusts connections to local livestock and global commodity market ( Cease et al., 2015 ;Wyckhuys et al., 2018 ) TFL 0 (0%) NA MCF 12 (4%) Migratory species play a critical role in providing ecosystem goods and services (e.g., pest control, recreational and cultural services) across regions ( López-Hoffman et al., 2017a ;Schröter et al., 2018 ) Conceptualizing species migration as metacouplings can essentially help investigate how the migration connects and impact the sending, receiving, and spillover systems ( Hulina et al., 2017 ) The spatial subsidy approach was proposed to specifically measure the degree to which the provision of benefits by a species in one location is subsidized by ecological conditions and processes supporting the species in other locations ( López-Hoffman et al., 2017b ) TFL 2 (3%) Distance decay can be used to develop a spectral distance proxy to characterize ecosystem beta-diversity ( Rocchini, 2007 ) Proximity to the national park helps halt land use change ( Olaniyi et al., 2020 ) MCF 69 ( 20% ) Remote consumption can lead to unexpected habitat losses for the iconic species ( Green et al., 2019 ) Migratory species can provide ecosystem services across distances ( Semmens et al., 2018 ), and the conservation efforts need to apply the telecoupling framework to understand and manage both adjacent and distant systems such as breeding, wintering, and stopover sites. Spatial subsidy was proposed to operationalize the framework by identifying sending and receiving areas, and by indicating the degree to which locations are telecoupled to other locations ( Kleemann et al., 2020 ;López-Hoffman et al., 2017b ). ...
Full-text available
Complex sustainability issues in the Anthropocene, with rapid globalization and global environmental changes, are increasingly interlinked between not only nearby systems, but also distant systems. Tobler's first law of geography (TFL) states “near things are more related than distant things.” Evidence suggests that TFL is not infallible for sustainability issues. Recently, the integrated framework of metacoupling (human-nature interactions within as well as between adjacent and distant systems, MCF) has been applied to analyze the interactions between nearby and distant coupled human and natural systems simultaneously. However, previous work has been scattered and fragmented. It is crucial to understand the extent to which TFL and MCF apply across pressing issues in sustainability. Therefore, we reviewed and synthesized sustainability literature that had used TFL and MCF across seven major topics: land change, species migration, tourism, trade, agricultural development, conservation, and governance. Results indicate that the literature using MCF generally did not or likely did not obey TFL, especially in trade, governance, and agricultural development. In the TFL literature, most topics obeyed TFL, except for species migration and trade. The findings suggest the need to rethink and further test TFL's relevance to sustainability issues, and highlight the potential of MCF to address complex interactions between both adjacent and distant systems across the world for global sustainability.
... Across the Mediterranean region, there is wide agreement that maintaining traditional and diverse land-use systems and practices, strengthening of local food systems, and better coordination of actors are critical to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (Esgalhado et al. 2021;García-Martín et al. 2020). A clearer link to a more comprehensive sustainable development agenda has been explicitly expressed for biodiversity conservation in the Mediterranean region (Kilani et al. 2007). ...
Full-text available
The Mediterranean Basin is a global biodiversity hotspot, but formal conservation approaches have not been wholly effective to halt species and ecosystem losses in this world region. There is wide agreement that maintaining traditional and diverse land-use systems is key to conserving biodiversity across the Mediterranean region. Biocultural approaches provide a perspective to understand and manage the interplay of nature and culture in various contexts. To develop biocultural systems as positive alternatives to unsustainable land-use systems requires an understanding of the decision-making contexts that enable such approaches. The aim of this synthesis study is therefore to compare how four biocultural conservation systems in the Mediterranean are shaped by values, rules, and knowledge. Our study is based on a synthesis of the literature published on agdal (Morocco), communal forests (Spain), sacred natural sites (Greece), and hima (Lebanon). Our synthesis shows that instrumental, intrinsic, and relational values are all fundamental components of the systems studied. Instrumental values, such as the provision of fodder or firewood, are central, and are often the result of a careful adaptation to the uncertainty inherent to Mediterranean climatic conditions. Systems like agdal and hima have originally been shaped by informal rules (often with the primary motivation to ensure equitable resource use and frequently involving taboos) and were then formalized to varying degrees. All four systems are strongly driven by local knowledge. We conclude that biocultural systems in the Mediterranean represent “people and nature” approaches that support linkages between nature and human well-being. Fostering biocultural conservation in the Mediterranean requires navigating multiple interlinkages between values, rules, and knowledge in decision-making.
... It should also imply the study of the socialecological conditions and the non-chain actors in the areas of production. In this sense, the incorporation of landscape products as a way to consider food from multiple (ecological, social, and economic) dimensions will promote more resilient socialecological systems [51]. • From the "social", "ecological" or "agronomic" perspectives to the "transdisciplinarity" vision. ...
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More and more people live in cities. In recent decades, this, combined with rural abandonment, has resulted in increased land ownership concentration and land grabbing [1,2,3,4], with an increase in agricultural intensification [5,6]. This process is leading to an increasingly polarized landscape between abandonment of traditional farming activities and highly intensive agriculture lands. Rural land abandonment is motivated mainly by socio-cultural factors, such as population aging and migration patterns from rural to urban areas [7]. Land abandonment has been described as a complex process with implications at ecological and socio-cultural levels [8]. Primarily, it can support ecological restoration, increase carbon storage or improve habitat quality. However, at social and cultural levels, it can endanger local ecological knowledge, cultural heritage, local identity and can negatively impact rural livelihoods through the loss of agricultural and forest products. On the other hand, highly intense agricultural farming systems are formed by large monocrops, which are extremely simplified systems, very often combined with the application of high rates of pesticides, the plantation of genetically modified species, and the removal of all kinds of wild biological diversity. A similar process has been observed in terms of livestock, with an increase in intensification in farming systems and the appearance of highly intense facilities (i.e., factory farms) [9], to the detriment of the extensive farming systems, which are less economically profitable but have a stronger link to the territory and integration within the available natural resources [10]. This has resulted in trade-offs with different ecosystem services [5,11,12,13,14] due to the prioritization of provisioning services (such as food) at the detriment of other supporting, regulating and cultural services. In addition, agricultural intensification is currently threatening the maintenance of traditional indigenous and peasant farming, whose practices have been proven to be beneficial for building up resilient agroecosystems that sustain both ecosystems and societal well-being [15]. This has led, ultimately, to the loss of the connection of people with nature [16,17]. The loss of human–nature connectedness in Western and urbanized societies has one of its paradigmatic examples in the commodification of food, which takes place in a context of an increasingly complex [18,19] and highly vulnerable [20,21,22] globalized food system. Therefore, it is clear that a transformation of the agri-food system is urgently needed [23]. In this SI, we have collected eleven studies assessing, using a diversity of approaches, how human–nature connectedness can be recovered through agriculture. Many of them are focused on the application of a systemic approach, by considering a set of sustainable agricultural practices, whereas some are focused on studying what management practices can be applied in agricultural systems in order to reconnect people with nature. One article addresses principles of good governance to create inclusive and integrative processes that support healthy communities and resilient ecosystems, whereas another one is focused on the consumer’s side in order to foster societal transformation.
Although ecosystem restoration is based on the concepts, approaches, and applied aspects of restoration ecology, science and practice of restoration must go far beyond that in a multidimensional perspective. This is shown by deepening certain topics related to ecosystem and landscape restoration. Hereby, terra preta as an ancient soil management, multipurpose plant species, and Cultural Keystone Species are introduced. Since the restoration and revitalization of cultural landscapes encompasses also socio-economic aspects and approaches, the village as an engine for cultural landscape maintenance and rural development, traditional cultural landscapes as tourist destinations, health care on the countryside, rural-urban partnerships, infrastructure and energy in rural areas, and the design of new cultural landscapes based on land-use traditions are discussed. Also, Higher Education should contribute to ecosystem and landscape restoration by preparing a new generation of well-skilled actors, stakeholders, and scholars who can apply their knowledge in an interdisciplinary and intercultural environment.KeywordsCultural keystone speciesInfrastructureMultipurpose speciesRenewable energyRural-urban partnershipsTerra pretaVillage
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Land use/land cover change (LULCC) studies are gaining prominence among environmentalist and land use planners. This is due to the effects of LULCCs on natural ecosystems and livelihoods. In the coastal landscape of south-western Ghana, there exist knowledge gaps in the variations in size and intensities in LULCCs and the degree of change among land cover types in LULCC studies. Such studies are important for identifying periods of rapid land cover transitions and their implications on the landscape. Using change detection, intensity analysis and informal stakeholder conversations, the land use system dynamics of the study landscape was analyzed over a 34-year period to assess the variations in size and intensities in LULC transitions and its implications. The results showed a dynamic landscape driven primarily by rubber and settlement expansions. Rubber and settlement increased threefold (172.65%) and fourfold (449.93%) in the 34-year period mainly due to rubber outgrower scheme and onshore infrastructural developments, respectively. Gains in rubber and settlement targeted arable lands. The LULCC implies local food insecurity issues, declines in ecosystem services and compromised livelihoods, hence, the enforcement of the Land Use and Spatial Planning Act (2016) is recommended in land use planning in the coastal landscapes of south-western Ghana.
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This study analyses the economic effects of the EU policy on the protection of origin. The focus is on three types of food products with Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), whose reference areas are located in the Free State of Bavaria: Beer (Bayerisches Bier PGI), asparagus (Franken-Spargel PGI, Schrobenhausener Spargel PGI), and carp (Aischgründer Karpfen PGI, Oberpfälzer Karpfen PGI). The study is based on secondary statistical analysis and a series of expert interviews. The results show positive effects on sales mainly for beer on international markets, and positive effects on price mainly for carp on the local and regional levels. All in all, we see that protection of origin stabilizes and supports the economic trajectory of its product. This study also shows that its economic effects vary widely: Firstly, price and sales effects are not automatic and differ in intensity; and secondly, the spatial dimensions of the economic effects exhibit different patterns. The primarily price-related effects at the local–regional level for carp (and to some extent for asparagus) are categorized as local effects (type A). The sales effect at the global level for beer is categorized as type B (export effect). Finally, this study postulates further potential forms of 'price and sales geographies'.
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1. Current sustainability challenges demand approaches that acknowledge a plurality of human-nature interactions and worldviews, for which biocultural approaches are considered appropriate and timely. 2. This systematic review analyses the application of biocultural approaches to sustainability in scientific journal articles published between 1990 and 2018 through a mixed methods approach combining qualitative content analysis and quantitative multivariate methods. 3. The study identifies seven distinct biocultural lenses, that is, different ways of understanding and applying biocultural approaches, which to different degrees consider the key aspects of sustainability science-inter-and transdisciplinarity, social justice and normativity. 4. The review suggests that biocultural approaches in sustainability science need to move from describing how nature and culture are co-produced to co-producing knowledge for sustainability solutions, and in so doing, better account for questions of power, gender and transformations, which has been largely neglected thus far.
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Agroforestry landscapes in the Mediterranean Basin have emerged in a co-evolution between humans and nature and provide numerous ecosystem services to society. Tree crops are iconic elements of these landscapes and have frequently been managed in a sustainable way over centuries, shaping multifunctional landscapes and local people's cultural identities. However, many Mediterranean tree-crop landscapes are undergoing substantial land-use changes, threatening important ecosystem services as a result. The overarching goal of this study is to explore common and diverging patterns of land-use change across different tree crops (oaks, chestnuts, olives) and contrasting landscapes in the Mediterranean Basin over a 200-year period. Specifically, we aim to: (1) describe the dominant land-use change processes across these three crop types using three exemplary sites per crop; and (2) identify and classify the main drivers that determine these landscapes' land change histories. We find a general acceleration of landscape dynamics and identify expansion, continuity, polarisation, intensifica-tion, abandonment and renaissance as dominant processes. Although each landscape history is contextualised, we observe a general trend from multifunctional tree-crop landscapes (expansion) towards intensification or abandonment in the last 70 years. The landscapes of the southern fringe of the Mediterranean Basin show predominant trends towards intensification, while the northern landscapes evolve towards abandonment. The driving forces identified are diverse and interrelated, comprising sets of socio-cultural, political, technical, economic and natural factors. We offer some key lessons for sustainable landscape management in highlighting the undervalued potential of tree crops, the inherent complexity of landscapes, the interdependencies of drivers and the importance of economic and socio-cultural driving forces.
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In the face of unsustainable land-use changes including intensified agricultural production and land abandonment, agroforestry systems have the potential to support a diversity of social and ecological functions in agricultural landscapes. Mediterranean agroforestry landscapes have been conserved through traditional practices, and new concepts are necessary to assure the viability of these practices. Labels bear the opportunity to indicate sustainable management along the supply chain and, at the same time, generate higher incomes for sustainably producing farms. We have used an expert-based Delphi survey with three iterative surveys to analyse (1) the relevance of different sustainability aspects in agroforestry systems, (2) the suitability of derived indicators for labelling, and (3) the specific potentials and barriers for labelling agroforestry production or ecological UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)—are considered relevant for agroforestry systems. Translating these goals into suitable indicators is the more challenging step, revealing the lack of appropriate data, the complexity of sustainability challenges, and a low willingness for producers to adapt their practices as key limiting factors. The assessment of the labelling schemes indicated coherent responses despite the diverse backgrounds of participants. Alongside eco-labels and social labels, Geographic Indications were suggested as the most suitable options for the agroforestry context, although these have not been invented for reflecting sustainability in the first place. Although experts are highly aware of social-cultural values of agroforestry systems, they see little potential to use those social-cultural aspects for labelling agroforestry products. Initial costs and missing consumer awareness for agroforestry are major reasons for not joining labelling schemes. We discuss the possibility of an agroforestry label and why elements of Geographic Indication labels may fit well for this purpose.
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This article investigates the roles that locally produced, processed and marketed food (Local Food System) play in rural tourism and local socio-economic development. It is the first account of a 3 years’ research project (LO-KÁLI) exploring a successful Hungarian rural tourism destination, investigating both the demand side (what attracts tourists to pay for premium products/services); and the supply side (what attitudes, norms, values keep producers in their business). We contrast the externally perceived image (‘genius loci’) of the region (‘Hungarian Provence’, together with its cultural landscape, gastronomy, and social and environmental sustainability) with the impacts of the current development process on the environment and the general wellbeing of the local economy and society in reality. This article presents some of the theories and the analytical framework underpinning our project, alongside preliminary results on how the elements contributing to tourist attraction are perceived by locals and by visitors to the region. Keywords: local food systems; LFS; rural tourism; rural development; interdisciplinary; Balaton; measuring touristic attraction
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Sustainability science is a use-inspired and place-based transdisciplinary enterprise that integrates natural and social sciences, engineering/design sciences, and humanities to produce actionable knowledge for improving human wellbeing while maintaining long-term environmental integrity. Regional landscapes represent a pivotal scale domain for studying and practicing sustainability because they integrate human-environment interactions, link local processes below and global patterns above, and provide a common platform for scientists, land designers/planners, policymakers, and stakeholders to collaborate on sustainability issues that resonate with all. An interdisciplinary confluence of ecological, geographical, and design/planning sciences is underway, but how this confluence can effectively contribute to the science and practice of sustainability is yet to be explored. Here I review landscape and land system-based approaches, including land change science, land system science, land system architecture, landscape ecology, landscape sustainability science, and geodesign, and discuss why and how they can be linked for achieving the common goal of sustainability.
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Improved perceptions towards landscape stewardship, at the local level, could help achieve more sustainable futures. However, little research has been done on the dimensions of landscape stewardship underlying such perceptions. Here we look at the perception of landscape values, place attachment, awareness of the adverse consequences human action might have on landscapes, and ascription of personal responsibility across Europe as well as how these dimensions are connected and influenced by personal capabilities and socio-cultural contexts. We conducted a cross-site comparison study, in six European municipalities, using a survey to capture residents' levels of awareness, responsibility, and attachment as derived from a set of statements. Respondents were also asked to indicate the values they perceive in the local landscape from a given list. The data was analysed by combining frequency analysis, factor analysis, and contingency tables. In our sample of 726 respondents, stronger awareness was related to stronger ascription of personal responsibility, but a connection to place attachment was not clear. Perception of multiple landscape values was related to stronger awareness, responsibility, and place attachment. Meanwhile, awareness and responsibility were influenced by respondents' occupation, levels of income and education, and socio-cultural context, whereas place attachment was linked to their relationship to the local area. We conclude that enhancing commitment towards landscape stewardship, at the local level, requires efforts focused on making environmental education more universal, implementing green options accessible to everyone, and people experientially engaging more actively with their local landscapes.
This article examines the question of why local food has become, for many activists and scholars, a core concept for understanding food systems and globalization and for challenging systems of injustice and inequality. I begin with the French concept of terroir, which is often translated as the “taste of place,” and examine why this term, part of France's cultural common sense, is difficult to implement in other places. I then consider efforts to use local foods to grapple with the forces of globalization and efforts to use ideas about local food to moralize capitalism and humanize food distribution systems. I examine the relationship between movements for food sovereignty and food justice with local foods. Finally, I explore the uses of local foods as part of efforts to develop, assert, and sometimes market local, regional, or national identities. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Anthropology Volume 48 is October 23, 2019. Please see for revised estimates.
Landscape ecology is an interdisciplinary field of research and practice that deals with the mutual association between the spatial configuration and ecological functioning of landscapes, exploring and describing processes involved in the differentiation of spaces within landscapes, and the ecological significance of the patterns which are generated by such processes. In landscape ecology, perspectives drawn from existing academic disciplines are integrated based on a common, spatially explicit mode of analysis developed from classical holistic geography, emphasizing spatial and landscape pattern analysis and ecological interaction of land units. The landscape is seen as a holon: an assemblage of interrelated phenomena, both cultural and biophysical, that together form a complex whole. Enduring challenges to landscape ecology include the need to develop a systematic approach able to translate positivist readings of the environment and hermeneutical perspectives on socioecological interaction into a common framework or terminology.
Given the heterogeneity and richness of Mediterranean farming systems, it is difficult to assess the nature and causes of observed dynamics based on single case studies. This research identifies case studies conducted on the north and south of the Mediterranean basin to provide a comprehensive overview of the current land and farming system dynamics and their main drivers. We analyze 80 papers published in international journals from 1985 to 2015. The studies vary in spatial scale, from 4 km² in the case of peri-urban regions and small agricultural areas to more than 500,000 km² in the case of national-based analyses. Most of the papers focus on mountainous rural areas, whereas only a few case studies are located in mixed regions or peri-urban inland regions. We analyze the farm trajectories behind the general dynamics to understand the ongoing processes at the agricultural level and their related drivers. Social and demographic drivers are indicated as particularly relevant for abandonment, which is frequently associated with intensification processes. Intensification dynamics are driven mainly by economic factors, which particularly affect annual crop production. Few papers analyze the dynamics of extensification and more research in this field is needed to understand this process and its eventual transition to the abandonment of agricultural areas. This analysis provides an opportunity for the exchange of ideas and information from a diverse range of disciplines and interest groups, which should be combined to formulate effective land use policies.