The contribution of chestnut orchard recovery projects for effective area-based conservation: Two cases in Asturias (North-West Spain)



  • ECOAGRASOC. Higher Polytechnic School. University of Santiago de Compostela; GIS-Forest Research Group, Universidad de Oviedo; Department of Geography, Swansea University


  • 30/10/2018


  • Southern Europe


  • Spain (Asturias)


  • Socio-Ecological Production Landscapes and Seascapes (SEPLS) frequently illustrate potential synergies between socio-economic development, multifunctional use of land, preservation of traditional knowledge, enhancement of ecosystem services and the conservation of biodiversity. As such, efforts for the conservation and enhancement of SEPLS can be considered aligned with “Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures” (OECM), as defined by Aichi Biodiversity Target 11, established by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to be attained by 2020. The utility of such areas and practices underlines the importance of acknowledging diversity in approaches to conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, as well as the integration of communities through local initiatives. Despite this fact, many SEPLS lack specific protection frameworks or measures, as they are sometimes difficult to define clearly as nature conservation entities. However, other measures related to the enhancement of socio-ecological systems themselves can be useful for the maintenance of their nature conservation capacity. In this study we present a project for the recovery of sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa Mill.) orchards in two public forests, Caranga Baxu and Villamorei, in the region of Asturias (North-West Spain). The project was promoted by the regional administration (Principado de Asturias), and its aim was to preserve in situ endangered native cultivars selected by local growers, and to protect the associated landscape, ethnographic and cultural values. In many cases, the chestnut orchards show a noticeable abandonment process, so the conservation efforts involved actions directed to recover the functionality of the systems. To do so, traditional knowledge was combined with modern techniques for operations like reclamation of trees (selection, pruning, grafting, shaping); conservation and maintenance of the orchard (shrub clearing, removal of ill trees); and the reconstruction of traditional stone structures (corros) used for chestnut fruit storage. In addition, efforts were made in the dissemination of knowledge regarding the project among the communities. Chestnut orchards are interesting examples of SEPLS, as they are normally forests cultivated and managed by local owners, who benefit from a range of goods and services, including chestnut fruits, wood, and agro-forestry grazing areas. Their strategic position in the landscape often allows for local climate regulation, erosion protection and water purification. Their structural and functional characteristics host high levels of biodiversity, and are important for the conservation of endangered species like the brown bear (Ursus arctos Linn.). Consequently, recovery actions for maintaining the structure and function of chestnut orchards play an important role in the scope of OECMs.


  • Area-based conservation; chestnut orchards; Social-Ecological Production Landscapes and Seascapes (SEPLS); rural development


  • Díaz-Varela, Emilio R., University of Santiago de Compostela; Álvarez-Álvarez, Pedro, Universidad de Oviedo; Roces-Díaz, José V., Universidad de Oviedo/Swansea University; Rodríguez-Morales, Beatriz., University of Santiago de Compostela

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