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Victoria Reyes-García receives an ERC Proof of Concept grant linked to the LICCI project

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New assessment finds EU electricity decarbonization discourse in need of overhaul

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Thesis defense of Ksenija Hanacek

Date: 2019-12-09

Date: Monday, December 9th 2019
Time: 15h 
Venue: Z/022 Espai Pirineu ICTA-UAB


Ksenija Hanacek
"Land-use changes, cultural ecosystem services, and environmental conflicts: Evidence from rural Bulgaria"

Directors: Johannes Langemeyer and Beatriz Rodríguez-Labajos

As a result of their interactions and interdependencies with people, agroecosystems contribute to the creation of cultural ecosystem services (CES) such as rural identity, traditional knowledge, and ceremonies related to cultivation. However, global agroecosystems are currently undergoing vast land-use changes –such as intensive agriculture, land abandonment, and urbanization– which are influenced by economic, policy, and market forces. Along with these trends, environmental conflicts are emerging between stakeholders with differing interests in land areas.

This dissertation holistically examines CES by critically studying how CES, in the light of relational values, are influenced by land-use changes, and further identifying environmental conflicts arising from changes in CES. The study begins at the global level, then uses Bulgaria as a case study at both the regional level and community levels, with particular emphasis on rural policies. Results of the research indicate that agroecosystems provide multiple interrelated CES that constitute global agricultural heritage. Further, land-use changes have a significant impact on culture and tradition, mainly at the expense of farmers and rural communities, and therefore lead to open and latent forms of environmental conflict. In the Bulgarian case study, stakeholders’ evaluation of CES at both regional and farm levels indicate CES evaluation is often disrupted due to land-use changes. Moreover, concerns about CES at the community level can emerge as environmental conflicts that are expressed openly thorough demonstrations or protests, provided the community’s political power for environmental management is high. When the degree of power is low, such CES-related conflicts are latent, expressed with a high importance placed on rural identity. Indeed, this study shows environmental conflicts over agricultural land appropriation are intertwined with cultural forms of dispossession.

On the basis of these findings, this dissertation argues global agricultural heritage is at risk of being lost due to land-use changes. More holistic land-use policies at different governance scales are needed that consider both the critical importance of local communities and the CES they co-create for preservation and nourishment of rural areas. Rural people and co-created CES play a fundamental role in defending ecosystem services distribution issues and promoting social, ecological, and economic well-being. Therefore, the participation of local stakeholders is important in land-use decision-making, and CES recognition in science and policy as pathways for the environmental preservation and social stability of marginalized rural areas.

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