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Looking at hidden connections to explore adaptive capacity of cultural landscape systems: case studies of four landcare associations in Germany

Hyunjin Park, Institute of Social Sciences in Agriculture, Societal Transition and Agriculture (430b), University of Hohenheim; Department of Technology Assessment and Substance Cycles, Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Engineering and Bioeconomy
Claudia Bieling, Institute of Social Sciences in Agriculture, Societal Transition and Agriculture (430b), University of Hohenheim


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Adaptive capacity indicates the capacity to cope with and adapt to a disturbance in a complex social-ecological system. Cultural landscapes can be understood as such systems that are confronted with land abandonment and agricultural intensification as key disturbances. However, responses to such cultural landscape loss have not been systematically investigated so far in terms of adaptive capacity. Taking this gap as a starting point and following a context-sensitive approach, this study addresses the question: how can the adaptive capacity of cultural landscape systems for a disturbance such as land abandonment be understood? We answer this question through a comparative case study of four landcare associations in Germany. A conceptual framework that distinguishes between coping and adaptation responses and allows for the analysis of different levels of fit of responses is used. Management of abandoned agricultural land, the establishment of cultural landscape features, provision of consultation and mediation services, and machinery are implemented as coping responses by the four associations. Adaptation responses include the organization of events, public relations work, education, regional brand promotion, lobbying work, and the promotion of regional products. The interactions between the responses that have either synergetic or counterproductive effects were identified. The results of this study emphasize the fit between different responses as an important factor for understanding the adaptive capacity of cultural landscape systems in addition to investing in coping and adaptation responses in isolation. In this sense, adaptive capacity needs to be understood not only in terms of coping (short-term adaptive capacity) and adaptation responses (longer-term adaptive capacity) but also through a good fit, which reduces trade-offs between responses and thus offers a broader range of future options. We conclude by calling for a holistic analysis of different responses to a disturbance that takes account of their fit.

Key words

adaptive capacity; cultural landscape; integrated landscape initiative; land abandonment; landcare association; social-ecological system

Copyright © 2021 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087