Ecosystem services as a policy tool for traditional landscapes: the case of the Pomak society in North-eastern Greece

Authors and Affiliations: 

Maria K.Sioliou*  Ioannis Ispikoudis**

*European Commission/European Investment Bank

**Laboratory of Rangeland Ecology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki


This paper examines the potential of the ecosystem services use as a policy tool in traditional landscapes. The challenge of using ecosystem services lies mainly at their recognition by the stakeholders and their spatialisation. In order to remedy that, the ecosystem services are examined at different spatial levels, i.e. landscape units and systems. The case study is the area of Pomak society, one of the last traditional agro-sylvo-pastoral societies in Greece, situated in South-eastern Rhodopi in Thrace, Greece.

The research was structured around three main elements: the landscape itself, the stakeholders and last the policies. First, we examined how traditional societies exploit their natural resources, how they created and or maintained their landscapes and the role of their cultural identity as a driver force in landscape structure. A combination of methodological tools was used; landscape archaeology, place names, aerial maps, landscape features and literature. Second, using Participatory Rural Appraisal and interviews, stakeholders assessed the ecosystem services provided. Consequently, ecosystem services were related to ecotopes, landscape units and systems. Third, we examined how the European and National Policies are related to landscape changes.

Results show that religious identity, social organization, traditional practices and know-how are important factors to be taken into account when establishing local strategies and policies. The role of local communities in integrated policies needs to be emphasized, while landscape can be the main context for establishing policies. In the framework of the programming period 2014-2020 the draft common provision regulation for structural policy (art. 28-31) provides for the Community Led Local Development tool. The involvement of all the relevant stakeholders is essential; therefore the use of ecosystem services in the landscape context could be a crucial element in formulating relevant strategies and policies.