Towards resilient agro-forest systems in Mediterranean cities

R. Biasi, E. Brunori, P. Serra, L. Perini, L. Salvati
Agricultural spaces are increasingly included in the European metropolitan areas, mainly in the Mediterranean basin. It is largely recognized that urban agriculture exerts multiple functions beside the provision of food, like the preservation of biodiversity, the maintenance of soil fertility, the assurance of carbon storage. Owing to urban expansion, in the space of city-countryside contact both traditional agricultural landscapes, as well as the newly realized ones, are under the pressure of several interconnected factors that determine agro-forest systems degradation. The aim of this study was to analyse the structure and quality of the agricultural landscape in two Mediterranean cities (i.e., Rome and Barcelona) and to evaluate their vulnerability vs resilience through the measure of integrated landscape indexes. The research approach is based on a multidisciplinary and multi-scalar landscape analysis (land use/land cover) and is focused on the tree-crop based landscape, i.e., mainly vineyards, fruit orchards and olive groves. In particular, through the methodology of geographic information systems the main landscape indexes have been measured and the presence of landscape quality indicators (in accordance to the agro-environmental indexes defined by the European Community) were also quantified for the study areas. Data are discussed at the light of some environmental vulnerability indexes (linked to the physical environment, both soil and climate) and agronomic vulnerability indexes (linked to agro-biodiversity) available for the study areas. Results proved that the tree-crop based landscape in the city-countryside contact space is highly fragmented owing to urbanization. Furthermore, additional vulnerability comes from the specific climate and soil treats in the urban context. Nonetheless, the still largely maintained traditional agricultural asset assures a high level of habitat diversity and agro-biodiversity, including large portion of natural capital in the cultivated spaces. In particular, the large presence of the vineyard agro-ecosystem, assures environmental friendly agriculture, owing to the high provision of ecosystem services, therefore exerting a positive effect on the environmental resources preservation in the metropolitan cities. Understanding the vulnerability determinants of the agro-forestry systems in the metropolitan area could allow the challenge of a resilient agricultural landscape against soil consumption and biodiversity depletion. The study highlights the crucial role of perennial crops in making modern cities resilient and sustainable and suggests strategies dealing with the regeneration of the urban context through the preservation of the agro-forestry systems and the introduction of competitive technological innovation.
Biasi, R., Brunori, E., Serra, P., Perini, L. and Salvati, L. (2017). Towards resilient agro-forest systems in Mediterranean cities. Acta Hortic. 1189, 125-130
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2017.1189.25
ecosystem services, metropolitan cities, productive landscape, tree crops, urban biodiversity

Acta Horticulturae