An Integrated Database for the Spatialization of the role of Protection played by Agriculture in Tuscany (DISPAT)

Laura Fastelli ±,  Massimo Rovai

Department of Agricultural, Food and Agro-Environmental Sciences, DISAAA-a, University of Pisa
Corresponding author: Laura Fastelli

NO-SHOW at the Conference

In recent decades territories show increasing problems in facing multiple impacts of soil consumption related to residential, productive, infrastructural and other uses (Feitchinger & Salhofer 2011) and going to reduce the natural agricultural functions. In urban and peri-urban areas soil consumption have a higher relevance than in rural areas, where negative impacts are mainly related to farmland abandonment. The latter is increasing as a consequence of the current difficult economic situation that is affecting both professional farmers and hobby farmers.

In this framework it is crucial, firstly, to analyze the above described phenomena of the farmland consumption and their negative impacts on public and environmental functions (i.e. food production, reproduction of soil fertility, water cycle, etc.); then, we have to set-up territorial policies aiming to enhance the production of ecosystem services of the farmland in order to ensure an adequate level of community well-being (Planchat-Héry, 2008; Rovai et al. 2010).

The search for a better balance between human pressure and the use of resources is the basis on which to build the sustainable development of a territory; thus a better relation between urban spaces, agricultural and natural areas is essential to ensure the balance between needs and endowment of natural capital (Arrow et al.1995). Therefore, we need to work on the reconnection between town and country (between the open spaces, the urbanized areas, etc.) and, at the same time, to renew and improve data availability and tools with the aim to enhance the knowledge to encourage / to preserve rural development and of territorial government at its different levels of operability: policies; planning, and design. Indeed, a better ability to manage a territory implies a capacity to promptly read its transformations in order to identify appropriate policies to prevent negative impacts and encourage positive outcomes of development. To develop effective territorial policies it is critical for the decision maker to have tools of analysis and intervention capable to determine an integration among sectoral policy interventions (e.g. urban, social, economic and environmental policies), making them respond to common principles and objectives in a coherent and synergistic way.

The present study is based on the awareness of the importance of the role of territorial custodianship played by agriculture and on the need to introduce dynamic management tools useful  for decision-makers so that – at different levels (es. governance; planning; etc.) – can be evaluated and promoted the specific services offered by agricultural land.

Firstly, the research analyses the role of custodianship and protection played by agriculture on the territory of Tuscany Region and the chances of improving it, by making an inventory of the relevant information sources and their potential connections. Secondly, an Integrated Geographic Database for the Spatialization of the role of Protection played by Agriculture in Tuscany (DISPAT) has been created using data from different sources (es. ARTEA; DTM; ISTAT; etc.) in order to have a flexible information model to respond to the needs of the public decision-maker at the different spatial scales. Lastly, DISPAT has been tested in the following fields: the programming of agricultural and rural development policies; the territorial and urban planning at different scales; and the territorial design with specific reference to peri-urban agriculture.

In particular, DISPAT was thought to help the planning process where the border between agricultural and urbanized areas is very fuzzy e where there is a lack of vision on the sustainable development of these areas. In these areas, in fact, the territorial administrative responsibilities are not well defined: for example, on the one hand, municipalities are no longer capable of managing territories which are increasingly complex; on the other hand, the Regional administration is too much estranged from the immediate local issues relating to the efficient use of soil (farmland) (e.g. production / delivery of public services, etc.).

The intrinsic characteristics and the potential interactions of DISPAT with disciplinary and institutional external contexts are summarized below according to the matrix pattern of the SWOT analysis.


Strengths Weaknesses
▪ Ability to integrate various thematic database through shared primary keys

▪ Ability to process aspatial information giving a geo-referenced dimension to aspatial data

▪ Information gaps on the level of territorial physical data

▪ Large amount of data (gigabytes) to manage simultaneously

Opportunities Threats
▪ Increased population awareness and sensitivity to the issues of reproducibility and management of land resources

▪ Budgetary constraints on public spending due to the prolonged economic crisis

▪ Continuous development of GIS technology

▪ Increased availability of Open Data

▪ Difficulty in finding updates for some sources (eg. ARTEA)

▪ Lack of foresight of Policy Makers


The DISPAT database, if further integrated at geospatial or administrative level, may definitely be useful for a better allocation of public resources in order to ensure the permanence of agriculture in contexts when it play a key role on territorial protection. This is especially true in disadvantaged territories, because in these areas the role of farmers’ custodianship is critical to the delivery of ecosystem services which are not remunerated by the market (e.g. hydro-geological protection, landscape protection, etc.) and  farmers high entrepreneurial skills are not always able to ensure farm viability.

In conclusion, the DISPAT, although needs some improvements, could become a valuable support for policy makers, due to the multidimensionality of the proposed evaluation model. This model, in fact, has shown its effectiveness in various operational levels in which has been implemented (programming, planning, design), with particular reference to the characteristics of the farm management in rural and peri-urban areas.



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