Conference topics

Background

The Mediterranean basin has a long history of producing food, fodder and fiber to supply rich civilizations. In parallel, it has contributed to many other cultural or regulating ecosystem services, sometimes involving substantial reshaping of the environment (e.g. terraces and irrigation canals, hedgerows, dehesa-montado). For these reasons, the current agricultural systems are rather complex, being rooted in purely Mediterranean agricultural and cultural traditions.

On the one hand, the Mediterranean basin is characterized by conditions of scarcity of land for agriculture (poor and shallow soils, steep slopes, summer drought), limited availability of resources, mainly water, as well as by different and complex agricultural systems. On the other hand, this area has also special features in terms of social organization, such as the low level of entrepreneurship in some hilly/mountainous marginal regions, mainly characterized by traditional features, a property structure based on family land considered more as a heritage than as a means of production, and a low level of taxation on land ownership.

Finally, from an ecological perspective, the Mediterranean climate offers unique conditions for rich biodiversity, although future climate changes are expected to shift suitable climatic conditions for some species northward. Expected climate changes, i.e. drier and warmer summers in particular, make these issues even more relevant today, as the diverse and complex Mediterranean agricultural systems will need to be as tough and resilient to these changes as possible, in addition to remaining economically profitable and environmentally sustainable.

Challenges and topics

The Mediterranean basin knows significant changes in terms of agricultural land use and practices. An abandonment of marginal or low intensity agricultural areas (including extensive pastoral areas) generates a re-naturalization (increase in forest cover in the north and dry steppe formations in the south); at the same time, coastal and plains areas are subject to a growing urbanization, generating increased competition on the access to land resources. Finally, the most fertile agricultural areas are experiencing a process of intensification, particularly in the southern side of the Mediterranean area. Beyond the spatial organization of the different land uses, these changes can be related to social objectives (e.g. food supply), environmental (e.g. protection of biodiversity) or natural processes (e.g. loss of yield due to dry periods) that affect the entire Mediterranean basin.

One of the driving factors of this phenomenon is the urbanization of Mediterranean societies. It is usually expressed through non-continuous and fragmented agricultural areas. However, this urban pressure on the rural areas can create new forms of agricultural land management. So there is a contemporary trend of changing the location and nature of the agricultural areas in the Mediterranean basin, following a set of tensions and opportunities taking place at different scales, from the local one to the basin scale (e.g. the globalized commodities markets, migration, climate change).

Despite the wealth of empirical studies on the trajectories agricultural areas, there are no pooled works at the basin scale or methodological proposals to integrate different disciplines involved in the analysis of agricultural dynamics.

Join the network!

We propose to analyze the existing farm and land system dynamics, covering different spatial and temporal scales, going from the local to the global one. We welcome research contributions based on case studies around the whole Mediterranean basin, as well as methodological proposition for the integration of the different spatial scales and the down or upscaling of the existing studies.

We call for case studies at local scale and regional or national synthesis about ongoing dynamics. Moreover, we will accept researches about the integration of different spatial and temporal scales. Comparisons among different Mediterranean case studies are also welcome. Based on the abstract received, we will split the contribution on different thematic sessions during the two conference days.

>> A special issue on the International Journal “Land Use Policy” is scheduled, based on selected draft papers <<