Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Cultural Landscape

Greetings from the Canarian island of Tenerife! As part of my graduate programme, my class has migrated down to this Spanish Atlantic volcanic isle off the coast of North Africa to learn about conservation and management in this island context. Since that has been tiring to say the least, I'm keeping this short and sweet. One of the topics we've discussed while busing around from park to park is the change in landscape character over the past sixty years. During that time, the main industry has shifted from agriculture employing 73% of the population (now only 3%) to cheap European tourist packages dominating.

Among many other consequences of this transition, has been the abandonment an development of agricultural land. Taking a look at a traditional cross-section of the island, you would see costal fishing, inland terraced agriculture on the rich volcanic soils, and then goat herding in the steep upland hillsides. Today, the goats remain to some extent, but most traditional agriculture is gone, while some banana and other export crops remain.

While this rapid erosion of traditional systems and landscape character seems rather depressing, I was also intrigued to learn that many of the cultivars grown in what remains of small scale farms are local endemic varieties. Potato types may be found nowhere else in the world. Vineyards are popping up and defining distinct Canarian wines. With a little infusion of interest and a spark of demand, perhaps farming on this island full of a rich diversity of ecosystems will rejuvenate its long agricultural tradition. For now, I just have these mediocre photos!

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