Monitoring the rural landscape. Synthesis of the changes observed in Tuscany (Italy) in the last two centuries.

Authors and Affiliations: 

Authors: Antonio Santoro, Valentina Marinai, Mauro Agnoletti



CULTLAB (Laboratory for Landscape and Cultural Heritage)

University of Florence

Via San Bonaventura 13

50145 Florence, Italy


According to the European Landscape Convention, which invites to take note of the transformations of the landscape identifying the modifying agents, and to the need of the Tuscan Regional Government for a landscape observatory, a permanent network of 14 study areas for the monitoring of the Tuscan landscape has been developed. This paper summarises the changes occurred in the last two centuries in these areas, located in various regional situations to represent the different geographical and socio-economical conditions, analyzed with a multitemporal methodology.

At a regional scale about half or the territory do not shows relevant changes in the main categories of land use, although these have changed internally.  The most important dynamic is the high increase of the wooded surfaces. Woodlands have grown almost by 50% since the 19th century, covering more than the half of the regional territory, due to the abandonment of the rural territory,  with greater intensity in the mountainous areas. In the plains and hills, where pastures and traditional crops has been gradually converted into specialized crops, the increase of the wooded surface is lower, although very meaningful. While most of the woodland increase is caused by cultivations and pastures abandonment, a part of this process is due to reforestation that has altered mainly the mountain and the costal areas, with different effects on the landscape.

The changes of the landscape do not occur only with the increase or the decrease of the land uses surface, but also though a modification of the internal structure of the landscape mosaic, with a loss of diversity estimated to be about 45%. This process is much higher than the loss of biodiversity in the natural species, estimated of about 8%. The study identifies the main dynamics of the land uses, as well as highlighting the level of integrity of the traditional landscape and the most vulnerable landscape structures, which retain high values in terms of culture, history, economy, aesthetic and biodiversity. The trends highlighted are still affecting the landscape today, threatening the values connected to this fundamental resource for Tuscany, although no regional policies have been developed to reduce this process. This marks a strong difference with the national level, where the Ministry of Agriculture has developed a very advanced legislation to preserve and valorise the rural landscape.