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The Rural Landscapes of Europe - How Man Has Shaped European Nature

15.09.2009 - (idw) Schwedischer Forschungsrat - The Swedish Research Council

As the six months of Swedish Presidency of the EU gets underway, the Swedish Research Council Formas is publishing an English edition of a book about the European cultural landscape, titled The Rural Landscapes of Europe - How Man has Shaped European Nature. The cultural landscapes and nature in Europe are the result of thousands of years of human impact and constitute our common heritage. Wars, revolutions, and diseases have affected nature. The landscape has been cultivated and become overgrown, back and forth. Forestry, agriculture, and animal husbandry have altered the flora and fauna. The book offers a holistic view of the cultural landscape from both a biological and a historical perspective.

"I hope that Sweden, during its Presidency, will be able to show the tremendous wealth we have in our European cultural landscapes. Conservationists and biologists need to know how important the sweep of history has been for the natural environment and the landscape we see today. At the same time I also want historians and stewards of the cultural environment to understand how important biology and the conditions of the landscape have been for the course of history," says Professor Urban Emanuelsson, the author of the book.

The history of European landscapes is depicted from the early Stone Age to modern times. The contents weave together biological diversity and nature conservancy with history and archeology. The book contains chapters on open land as a key problem for nature conservancy, the evolution of prehistoric plants and animals to today's species, the introduction of agriculture, the cultural landscape of ancient times, grazing culture, wood, lumber, and winter fodder, extermination and dissemination of animals and plants, cultivated wetlands, hunting, war, and pestilence, the sea, etc. A couple of chapters deal with political developments, various types of revolutions that changed the European landscape, and the importance of the Soviet Union for the Eastern European landscape.

"Russia is often left out of descriptions of European nature, and Eastern Europe usually receives short shrift. This may be due to language barriers and the isolation from the rest of Europe before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. But for those interested in nature, Eastern Europe is a an area of great interest, in many ways more interesting than Western Europe," says Urban Emanuelsson.

"In connection with their joining the EU, these countries also want to implement efficient forestry and agriculture. Will they be able to afford to work with conservation? Can they develop their environmental substitutions so that valuable landscapes can be preserved and become an important component in the sustenance of rural areas? We should be more actively involved in Rumania's fantastic and multifaceted landscape so that people can continue to live there and earn decent livings from ecotourism, for example, as a complement to forestry and farming."

A concluding chapter depicts what the author regards as weaknesses in current efforts to conserve the natural and cultural environment, and he suggests ways in which these weaknesses can be remedied.

"A distinction is still often made between conserving the natural and cultural environments. To me, this is an artificial dichotomy that is unfortunately perpetuated by both public authorities and non-profit organizations. Those wishing to preserve the environment should include the whole landscape. A key concept would then be 'the biological cultural heritage.' Europe's cultural heritage also encompasses trees shaped by humans and the appearance of different types of nature," says Urban Emanuelsson.

The Rural Landscapes of Europe is intended for individuals who work with the conservation of nature and culture, researchers, students, and anyone interested in nature conservation, biological diversity, history, and the connections between these fields. The tone is that of popular science.

The book has 383 pages and is richly illustrated. It costs SEK 596 (including VAT, excluding shipping and postage) and can be ordered from www.formas.se or from Formas Customer Service, phone +46 (0)8-690 95 22. For review copies, please contact lena.jansson@formas.se, +46 (0)8-775 40 65.

Urban Emanuelsson
Urban Emanuelsson is a professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and for many years has been the director of the Swedish Biodiversity Center. He is a plant ecologist specializing in the cultural landscape and issues involving historical ecology. He also works with environmentally sensitive social planning and with international nature stewardship in various regions of the world.


For more information:
Urban Emanuelsson, urban.emanuelsson@cbm.slu.se, cell phone: +46 (0)70-620 43 41.

Birgitta Johansson, Swedish Research Council Formas, birgitta.johansson@formas.se

Emilie von Essen, Swedish Research Council Formas, eve@formas.se

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