Traditional rural landscapes and biocultural diversity: a comparative analysis of three areas in Vinales (Cuba), Telouet valley (Morocco), Itria Valley (Italy).
This work intends to strengthen the scientific basis for the identification, conservation and dynamic management of traditional rural landscapes, employing methods of analysis developed for the National Register of the Italian rural landscape, the FAO Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems project as well as the UNESCO-SCBD joint program on biocultural diversity. The research meant to find out whether traditional rural landscapes representing the integration of economical, social and environmental processes, in time and space, but in very different conditions, present similarities in their landscape structure and also to ivnestigate the type of biocultural diversity associated to the landscape. The paper analysis elements of continuity and diversity in the texture of the landscape mosaics in three rural areas: Viñales Valley in Cuba, Telouet Valley in Morocco and Itria Valley in Puglia, through aerial photo interpretation. All the sites are included in UNESCO World Heritage List, although for different categories. In a comparative perspective, the three areas display a prevalence of farmland over woodland and a relatively small average area of landscape patches: 0.48 ha in Viñales, 0.29 ha in the Itria valley, and 0.09 ha in Telouet. The Moroccan site has by far the finest-grained landscape mesh, due to the characteristics of its irrigated fields and the historical farming practices. The number of land-use classes in which we divided the respective land covers is very different from one area to the other: only 12 land-use classes for Viñales, 18 for Telouet, and 36 for the Itria valley. Another feature we have studied is the connectivity of the landscapes under consideration. The Edge density Index, "E", takes into consideration not only the number and the average area of patches, but also measures the complexity of a land mosaic and the characteristics of boundaries between patches. Telouet presents the higher E value, with 939,67 m/ha. It is very significant that all three areas have in common a high complexity of the landscape mosaic due to traditional agricultural practices, despite the environmental, social, economic conditions are very different, as well as a long historical persistence of the landscape structure. In these cases, the strategies of enviromental adaptation of traditional cultures have determined similar landscape characteristics almost independently of enviromental conditions. These landscapes need to be studied and preserved not only for their significance as an element of cultural identity, but also as remarkable examples of adaptation to difficult environmental conditions and for their biocultural diversity. For adequate planning to be undertaken, we need to understand the structures of these landscapes more in detail and to monitor their transformations, as a premise for the implementation of more adequate policies by national and international institutions.