This thesis explores the processes of change in European rural landscapes. Landscapes have evolved over millennia as a result of human influence on the physical environment. Europe has a wide variety of landscapes that can alter within a relatively short distance, and which often form part of the national cultural identity of a European country. Central to this thesis, however, are insights into the processes of landscape change.
In this context, the overall objective of this thesis is: To assess the dynamics of landscape change and increase the scientific understanding of the underlying processes and policies that have shaped the rural landscapes of Europe after establishment of the EU.
The focus is on the period following the establishment of the European Economic Community in 1965, which is hypothesised as the main driver of landscape change. European policies have an important direct impact on national and regional policies. The way that European policy transposition took place, existing governance structures and policy cultures also defined how ‘European policy’ influenced countries and regions. The object of this study is in particular the changing rural landscape, including the role of European agricultural policies, such as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and conservation policies (for example Natura2000) in these changes.
The thesis uses an integrated approach to assess the various processes of landscape change: land use transitions, urbanisation of the countryside, land use intensification, extensification or abandonment. These processes are linked to drivers of landscape changes, the role of policies, and how these affect the landscape processes.
The research objective requires unravelling the correlations between land-related policies and landscape change in the EU, the drivers of landscape change and in particular how policies affect the European landscape. To operationalise this objective, the following research questions are addressed:
What are the major landscape change processes occurring in different regions of Europe?
What are the drivers of landscape change in different regions of Europe, and what is the role of EU-policies in particular?
How do landscape changes affect the provision of landscape services?
How does the implementation of conservation policies affect processes of landscape change?
Which effective strategies and future pathways can be followed to conserve valuable cultural landscapes?
The thesis consists of an introductory chapter, five chapters each addressing one of the research questions, and a concluding synthesis: putting the findings together and indicating their potential significance for research and policy. The first chapter introduces the theoretical framework, which focusses on the benefits (goods and services) that landscapes provide, satisfying human demands directly or indirectly. The framework recognises the institutions, the policies (indirect drivers), as well as natural and anthropogenic drivers of landscape change. The five central chapters have each been submitted to international peer reviewed scientific journals, three of which have been accepted, and one has been revised and resubmitted.
Research question Q1, ‘What are major landscape changes occurring in different regions of Europe?’ is addressed by interviewing 437 farmers in six selected study areas in Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria, Greece and Romania (Chapter 2). The aim of this survey was to acquire a better understanding of farmer’s decision making, the environmental conditions and the landscape change processes taking place. The focus is on intensification and extensification processes in the case-study areas and regional similarities and differences. A statistical analysis of land use intensity was carried out on the basis of the interviews.
Research question Q2, ‘What are the drivers of landscape change in different regions of Europe, and what particularly are the role of EU-policies?’, discusses the factors and drivers of change in a meta-study of six countries (Chapter 3). This study is based on stakeholder’s interpretations of change processes, using Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping. Groups of landscape experts participated in five workshops to jointly construct a cognitive map of landscape change processes over the past 25 years. The study examines in particular the storylines of the processes of landscape change. Two cases of Mediterranean and Boreal landscapes, are detailed.
Question Q3, ‘How do landscape changes affect the provision of landscape services?’ is addressed in Chapter 4, and discusses five European case studies with regard to changes in landscape services. The analysis is based on observed landscape changes by comparing maps for periods of up to 25 years. The changes were interpreted in terms of the consequences for landscape services, and related to European policies of landscape change.
Question Q4: ‘How does the implementation of conservation policies affect processes of landscape change?’ is discussed in Chapter 5 through focus on landscape governance. The transposition of European policy is assessed using the case of the Habitats Directive in four countries: Denmark, Greece, The Netherlands and Romania. It is assessed how legislation is locally translated and how this ‘fits’ the national governance system.
The last Question, Q5: ‘Which effective strategies and future pathways can be followed to conserve valuable cultural landscapes?’ is addressed in Chapter 6 on Mediterranean landscape change. Two ‘iconic’ Greek and Italian cultural olive yard landscapes were compared. Both landscapes have a centuries-old farming system. Long-term data sets on landscape change (exceeding 100 years) were combined with map data, interviews and literature, to discuss the characteristics of cultural landscape management, opportunities and potential risks for the future of these cultural landscapes.
The final chapter, Chapter 7, reflects on the results and presents the conclusions of the previous chapters, and on the scientific and societal significance of the thesis as a whole. It is concluded that the landscape in Europe is permanently changing as a result of complex interacting drivers. Policy has been one of the important drivers, but the landscape changes that have taken place are the outcome of various economic drivers and policies. The paradox is that the intentions of different European and regional spatial policies have been ambitious with regard to rural development, environmental quality, conservation of natural habitats and cultural heritage. In the end however, the complex interactions among direct and indirect drivers led to unintentional changes negatively affecting landscape value, resulting in land degradation, loss of cultural values and biodiversity. In other words, dominant drivers of landscape change (global economy, European policies) resulted in an outcome of landscapes that are preferred by the majority of the agricultural and forest sector, but otherwise no specific stakeholders were targeted, an outcome which was not envisaged by the policies.
Without efficient allocation of land resources and failing to regulate sustainable use, the landscape services are declining One approach to meet the diverse demands for landscape services is to focus on the provision of multiple benefits, using a multifunctional land use approach. The assumption thereby is that a multifunctional landscape has all aspects of a sustainable, liveable and biodiverse landscape.
The case studies landscapes in this thesis are characterised by different approaches that differ in multifunctionality: the marginal areas in southern Europe are less embedded in the global economy, and demonstrate high multifunctionality. Denmark and The Netherlands show typical ‘lowland agriculture’, that are weakly multifunctional. The Eastern European landscape cases in Romania and Estonia have higher multifunctionality, but the opportunities for change towards multifunctionality are less than in Western Europe. The opportunities are mostly dictated by environmental conditions, in particular the marginality of land, and the economy. Farming in these regions may have been profitable in the past, but abandonment is looming if no measures are taken to counteract economic driving forces.
The cultural landscapes such as in Lesvos and Portofino are particularly highly multifunctional. These old social systems are in decline: landscapes have deteriorated and changed since they have not been well maintained. The discontinuance of traditional management has occurred due to ageing populations, a lack of labour, skills and high costs. If iconic cultural landscapes are to be preserved for the future, deterioration must be halted. Traditional knowledge, skills and techniques are key for maintaining valuable cultural landscapes, such as in Italy and Greece, but also cultural landscapes in Western Europe like England or France, or traditional landscapes in Hungary or Poland. Solutions must be found to preserve the knowledge and traditions of landscape management, but also funds and labour are required to maintain these landscapes.
European landscapes have been permanently changing as a result of complex interacting drivers. Policy is one of the important drivers, but the landscape changes that take place are not the outcome of ‘a’ policy which steers the landscape development, but as the outcome of globalisation, economic drivers and policies; mostly the CAP, Rural Development Plan (RDP) and national forest policies which affect to a large measure the landscapes. There is no European policy for landscapes: landscape is not a prerogative of the EU.
Therefore, a tailor-made approach is essential for European policies implemented in each member state, taking into account the structure and functioning of existing national institutions, without losing sight of the overall aims of the policy. This requires input from the recipient countries in designing regulations, adapting them to existent institutions and modifying historical and current practices.
Holmes’ framework for changing modes of occupancy (use of rural space) has been used, whereby landscape transitions are considered the result of a changing balance between societal consumption, conservation and production. Landscapes where (agricultural or forestry) production is less dominant, may allow for more multifunctional policies that counterbalance the dominant position of production. Most countries do not have policies that fill the ‘gap’ of multifunctional landscape management. Gaps exist for landscapes not subject to Natura 2000, high nature value farming areas, outside urban zones, locations not affected by the Water Framework Directive or national forest policies, or those insufficiently covered at present by effective planning for multifunctional land use.
Existing (sectoral) schemes need to be re-examined with respect to multifunctionality. Potential multifunctional impacts should be considered in policymaking, e.g. payment schemes in the CAP or in Natura 2000, and about appropriate target areas for measures. Making more funds from CAP and RDP available for multifunctional land use could lead to more land sharing.
Landscapes, particularly iconic cultural landscapes, can benefit from mechanisms that allow the costs incurred by lower agricultural production to be covered. Payments for regulating and cultural services could be integrated in funding programs, e.g. through better targeting of Agri-Environment Schemes (AES) at smaller farmers in these valuable landscapes. Funding schemes should ensure that small, multifunctional farmers particularly in need support benefit. Better use must also be made of the added value potential of multifunctional effects. Increased multifunctionality would benefit the attractiveness of the countryside for residence, recreation and tourism.
Countries implement policies differently, but key success factors for multifunctional landscapes are the existence of locally- appropriate institutions that implement multifunctional policies. Building of new institutions can be time consuming and requires staff development.
Policy instruments on their own may be insufficient to harmonise the different aims of multifunctionality. Despite the AES, biodiversity and landscape quality is declining. The domination of some functions requires interventions and choices about trade-offs to be made (Arts et al. 2017). Given the dominant power of globalisation and European markets, payment for landscape services alone is ineffective, requiring additional incentives for the valorisation of these services, and to stimulate multifunctionality. Regional integrative approaches could be supported, with positive examples provided in the cases of alternative funding schemes, and how obstructions for such experiments can be tackled.
Finally, stakeholder involvement in landscape governance appears promising as a way to better meet the socio-ecological context within a landscape, provided that stakeholders address different scale levels. This requires a dynamic process to mobilise stakeholders, and flexibility of the government towards negotiations and conflict management at the landscape level. In particular, these last issues can be decisive for successful landscape governance. Different landscape governance arrangements are currently being tested in Europe which demonstrate new avenues. Notwithstanding some successful stakeholder involvement in landscape management, there are also challenges: in all such processes, there is a risk that collaboration results in power inequalities that affect the outcome, or may give certain groups more benefits than others, which may make the process unsustainable. It remains, therefore, important that the concept of multifunctional landscapes is integrated in existing legislation and regulations, and further integrated into land-related policies.