ISCAR Workshop 2017: "Exploring Alpine landscapes as potential agricultural heritage systems and their contribution to human well-being "



Date: 7./8. September 2017

Venue:  Tolmin and Čadrg/Triglav National Park, Slovenia

Organizers: ISCAR, ZRC SAZU

Programme: will follow soon



Mimi Urbanc, Mateja Šmid Hribar, Matej Gabrovec, Primož Gašperič and Primož Pipan

ZRC SAZU - Anton Melik Geographical Institute, Research Center of Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts

Gosposka 13

SI-1000 Ljubljana


Thomas Scheurer,
Christian Rohr,
Andrej Udovč,


The agricultural cultural landscape reflects natural resources and humankind's past and current activities, which have been carried out in the context of wider social, economic, technological and political conditions. The basic characteristic of the landscape is its dynamics and constant change. Landscape does not comprise only tangible (material) elements, but also the intangible (mental, imagined) part. As such it is recognized as ecological as well as socio-economic system. It reflects people’s adaptation to natural features and their development of land use strategies in the dynamic and unpredictable social and political developments. The geographical setting in mountaineous and hilly regions, such as the Alps, is especially vulnerable and unstable. Various landscape structures were generated due to this adapted land use and enhanced landscape diversity increased, which was reflected in a mosaic landscape. The variety of human activity had a direct impact on both landscape diversity and biodiversity. Alpine landscape thus turned into cultural heritage and a resource, both important for developing a sense of belonging and identity. In this regard Alpine agricultural landscapes can be recognized as a public good offering people opportunity to learn about indigineous knowledge on living in mountain environment. However, the role it plays in ensuring environmental balance and in the myriad of ecosystem services should also not be ignored.


Farming in the Alps
The importance in preservation of traditional agriculture landscapes in Alps was recognised in Alpine Convention and its Mountain Farming Protocol stating that, “in mountain regions in particular farming has, over the centuries, shaped the countryside, giving it its historical character and cultural value”. Livestock farming suited to local conditions is not only an important source of revenue but also decisive part of the identity of the countryside and culture. Agricultural heritage is an important part of numerous protected areas in the Alps including national parks. In such areas conservation of natural and cultural heritage linked to sustainable tourism could have positive impact on regional development.


GHIAS & Satoyama
In 2002 FAO of the United Nations started an initiative aiming to safeguard and support the world’s Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS). They boast not only of outstanding landscapes, globally significant agricultural biodiversity, indigenous knowledge and resilient ecosystems, but also provide livelihood security for millions of family farmers. Safeguarding the social, cultural, economic and environmental goods and services for family farmers, indigenous peoples and local communities should be of utmost importance. The concept of GIAHS is very close to the Japanese concept of Satoyama landscape. It is based on 'socio-ecological production landscapes' which »are dynamic mosaics of habitats and land use practices that have been shaped over the years by the interactions between people and nature in ways that maintain biodiversity and provide humans with goods and services needed for their well-being« (Paris declaration on Satoyama initiative 2010). These landscapes have multifunctional roles and are important for providing numerous ecosystem services which are identified as all benefits that people get from ecosystems and contribute to human well-being.


However, agricultural landscapes have been facing numerous challenges mostly resulting in their impoverishment and threatening due to modern social and economic processes. Agriculture in the Alps could cannnot be competitive on the global market due to less favoured natural conditions and thus fragile economic feasibility. Additional challenges in rural areas are increased rural–urban migration, rapidly aging population and depopulation resulted in overgrowing, shrinkage of agriculture land and loss of biodiversity. All mentioned processes lead to loss of traditional ecological knowledge and practices on cultivating land.


Workshop objectives
The aim of the workshop is to explore Alpine landscapes that are important for their agricultural heritage and assess those landscapes that fulfill criteria to be included in the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage systems (GIHAS). For this, we have to clarify the historical dimension of these heritage systems (before 1900? After World wld 1? etc.). Beside existing traditional production systems, this worksop will also address the reactivation of former traditional practices and jointly the restoration of traditional landscape elements. Additionaly, with this workshop we seek to identify and compare other good practices in Alpine remote agriculture settlement in protected areas similar to the Čadrg settlement and investigate in their contribution to human well-being.


Target public, format
The workshop is addressing experts in Alpine agricultural production systems with perspectives to (cultual) landscape, ecossystems and socio-economic systmes. To focus discussion, the workshop will be open for 20-30 experts from science and interested stakeholders from different Alpine countries and the Alpine Convention. 


Locations in Slovenja
This workshop focuses on the Alpine agricultural landscapes as the result of people’s management of arable and forest land and will take place in Tolmin, which has been awarded with the title of “Alpine Town of the Year 2016”, and partly also in the Čadrg settlement in the Triglav national park in Slovenia. Half a century ago, this mountain settlement was at the brink of dying out due to lack of road connection with the valley. Nowdays serves as an example of successful revitalization of remote mountain community and its branding as ecological, agricultural, and touristic destination.

Key words: landscape, agriculture, heritage, Alps, Satoyama initiative, GIAHS, Slovenia, Tolmin, Čadrg


Expected outcomes

Main findings will be published in common scientific article, and, based on this, the development of a transnational and transdisciplinary project regarding issues from the workshop (e.g. Alpine Space).
Depending from the results of the workshop, a pan-alpine approach for evaluation of potential GIHAS sites in the Alps could be proposed to the Alpine Convention or its working group on mountain framing (e.g. by ISCAR as an official observer).



- International Scientific Committee on Research in the Alps, ISCAR
- Anton Melik Geographical Institute, Research Center of Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, ZRC SAZU