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Criteria for the a-biotic and biotic realm: environment and ecology

van Mansvelt, J.D. and Znaor, Darko (1999) Criteria for the a-biotic and biotic realm: environment and ecology. In: van Mansvelt, J.D. and Lubbe, M.J (Eds.) Checklist for Sustainable Landscape Management: The Landscape and Nature Production Capacity of Organic/Sustainable Types of Agriculture. Elsevier, Amsterdam-Lausanne-New York-Oxford-Shannon-Singapore-Tokio, pp. 41-86.

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Document available online at: https://www.elsevier.com/books/checklist-for-sustainable-landscape-management/van-mansvelt/978-0-444-50159-2


This work is an interdisciplinary, cross-cultural, widely-calibrated checklist for EU sustainable landscape management, which is intended to serve both as an analytical tool of reference as well as a design tool for local, regional and European policy making on sustainable developments.
The tool has been developed out of a multidisciplinary study in EU countries which was designed to find out what would be the overall requirements for a sustainable management of the landscape of rural areas. Could these stipulations be brought together in a comprehensive system with sufficient consistency to comply with the notion that the landscape is an entity, which should be managed accordingly? Cooperation of the scientific experts with those involved in the practical side, and alternating plenary reporting with subgroup visits to farms in the rural landscapes of the participants' countries, allowed for the development of some truly interdisciplinary teamwork. Organic agriculture has been included to find out how organic agriculture contributes to the rural landscape.
In the development of sustainable rural landscapes, aspects and processes from the a-biotic or environmental sphere and from the ecological or bio-sphere, do play a most fundamental role. So they are of crucial importance in the selection of criteria needed for the assessment of sustainability. Processes taking part in the a-biotic compartments like soil, water and air, do indispensably influence relations in the bio-sphere realm of a landscape (living organisms and ecosystems) and vice versa. Actually, the whole biosphere depends on the conditions that the a-biotic sphere provides for. The other way round, living nature creates non-living nature as a product of its vital processes. Both spheres are subject to a wide range of interconnected complexes of physical, (bio)chemical and ecological processes, assimilation and dissimulation, anabolism and catabolism, growth, maturation and decline. They all are quite sensible to endogenous control and also to the systems’ exogenous pollution, degradation, depletion and destruction, because the nature of these processes is very subtle and dynamic and moreover locally determined. These days, they are increasingly influenced by a number of deteriorating side effects of industrial and infra-structural activities on a global-level.
The sustainable management of landscapes, that obviously includes the prevention of the negative effects of human activities on specific elements of the a-biotic- and the bio-sphere, bio-topes or whole landscapes, requires careful and comprehensive planning and an attitude of good stewardship. Overall objectives of such a sustainable landscape management should include a clean, healthy environment and a bio-(genetic) diversity, which respects the valuable heritage of natural and cultural evolution. Here, with the word environment we refer to the a-biotic sphere: soil, water, air and energy, targeting at favourable conditions of the earth’s non-renewable resources. The biosphere is referred to as ecology, meaning all relevant biological and ecological relationships in space and in time.
It is important to realise that all elements of the environment and the biosphere have not only complicated interactions among themselves as such. The elements are also very dependent on the extent into and the way in which they are perceived by the people in charge of policy decision-making. In the social realm, as will be pointed out later on (see column 3 economy and column 4 sociology of Table 3.1), the existing differences between various actors and groups in getting access to decision-making are highly determinative for the kind of decisions taken. If experts or representatives are invited to participate in any decision-making process then the question is “who decides on whom to be invited in or out?” The various (potential) actors or actor-groups may have a combination of different economic and power interests. Especially in the context of policy shifts, e.g. toward a more sustainable land use, the vested interests connected to the previous policies have to find and accept ways to accommodate. A crucial question within economics is “which strategy is economic to whom?” The fairly usual and short term interest of relative smaller private groups has to be exchanged for the long term interest of larger and more communal groups. This requires another level of considerations with a rather ethical dimension, indicated as the cultural realm. Therein, the personal perceptions of the involved values are addressed as well as the explicit differences in paradigms and related value systems that make people prefer short term over and above long term or vice versa. For instance, the standard for clean water is not only determined in an indisputable scientific way. Examples of questions related to the standard for clean water are: “how clean should the water be and of what substance (absence or “x” concentration of “y” substances)” and “how clean should the water be for what kind of uses: human consumption, bathing, washing, or trout farming?” The same decisions have to de made for standards on the necessary diversity of plant and animal species in a valley, on top of a hill or on a south or a north exposed slope.
Aspects filtering in from the social and cultural realm should not be disregarded or even denied in the decision-making process of the environment and biosphere values and qualities. The setting of sustainable management standards can only be done in a satisfying way if the existence, the background and the future perspectives of such value-system related perceptions are explicitly addressed. Here, satisfying means: long time functioning and thus positively recognisable in the landscape in retrospective. (See the psychological aspects in section 3.2.3 and the anthropological aspects also in section 3.2.3.) In our study, the presence of experts who are familiar with the practices and ideas of organic agriculture was found to be very fruitful. They added experiences on possibilities to merge food production and nature production in not yet widely acknowledged ways. This once again stressed the importance of considering facts in their proper contexts.
Compliant to what has already been mentioned about the complex interactions between the a-biotic and the bio-sphere, is that targets, criteria and parameters mentioned in column 1 (environment) of Table 3.1 and resource conditions are thought to be respected and included in column 2 (ecology and biosphere) of Table 3.1. Subsequently, they will be included as basic requirements in the considerations made in column 3 (economy), column 4 (sociology), column 5 (psychology) and column 6 (psychology and physiognomy/cultural geography). All these targets, criteria and parameters are compliant to the idea that survival of the biosphere is a prerequisite for a sustainable human development.
The quality of the a-biotic biotic environment for sustainable landscape management is represented by the criteria for the a-biotic and biotic realm, viz.: environment and ecology. These two groups of criteria are presented below:
Resource conditions
1.1 Clean environment
1.1.1 Fertile and resilient soil
1.1.2 Water quality
1.1.3 Air quality
1.1.4 Wild fire control
1.2 Food and fibre sufficiency and quality
1.2.1 Nationally sufficient and regionally sustainable levels of food and fibre production
1.2.2 Good food and fibre quality to match sufficient quantities
1.3 Regional carrying capacity
1.4 Economic and efficient use of resources
1.5 Sustainable, site-adapted and regionally specific production systems
Biological relationships
2.1 Bio-diversity
2.1.1 Flora and fauna species’ diversity
2.1.2 Bio-tope diversity
2.1.3 Ecosystems’ diversity
2.2 Ecological coherence
2.2.1 Vertical coherence: onsite
2.2.2 Horizontal coherence: in the landscape
2.2.3 Cyclical coherence: in time
2.3 Eco-regulation
2.4 Animal welfare

EPrint Type:Book chapter
Keywords:Checklist for Sustainable Landscape Management; The Landscape and Nature Production Capacity; Organic/Sustainable Types of Agriculture; Environment; Ecology: A-biotic realm; Criteria and Parameters for Sustainable Agriculture
Subjects:"Organics" in general
Soil > Soil quality
Farming Systems > Farm economics
Farming Systems
Food systems > Food security, food quality and human health
Crop husbandry
Farming Systems > Social aspects
Environmental aspects > Air and water emissions
Values, standards and certification
Environmental aspects > Biodiversity and ecosystem services
Food systems
Food systems > Policy environments and social economy
Environmental aspects > Landscape and recreation
Environmental aspects
Farming Systems > Farm nutrient management
Research affiliation: Netherlands > Wageningen University & Research (WUR)
Deposited By: Znaor, Dr Darko
ID Code:26410
Deposited On:01 Jul 2014 08:03
Last Modified:01 Jul 2014 08:03
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted
Additional Publishing Information:Final Report of the EU Concerted Action AIR3-CT93-1210

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