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MEMOLA Report Summary

Project ID: 613265
Funded under: FP7-SSH
Country: Spain

Periodic Report Summary 2 - MEMOLA (MEditerranean MOntainous LAndscapes: an historical approach to cultural heritage based on traditional agrosystems)

Project Context and Objectives:
MEMOLA project focuses on the study of four MEditerranean MOuntainous LAndscape in Europe: Sierra Nevada (Spain), Vjosa Valley (Albania), Trapani Mountains and Colli Euganei (Italy).

The project aims to analyse cultural landscapes taking as a central axis the diachronic study of the relationship between human populations and natural resources- in particular soil and water- that are essential to generate agrosystems. We assume that the logic framework governing landscapes and their structure are strongly conditioned by the need of ensuring the livelihood of rural communities over time. They are spatial representations of the social relations that stand behind social production systems. The construction of landscapes is based on strategies of production and reproduction of societies, each one with their particular characteristics, throughout history. Therefore, to understand the landscape it is necessary to research the historical processes that have led to a specific relationship with the environment, aimed at the extraction and use of resources in specific social contexts. These uses have deeply moulded the environmental context, generating not only its shape, but also the cultures that made possible its management and maintenance until today. Landscapes are thus the results of this co-evolution, and bear a fundamental anthropic factor. They are living spaces, and in order to understand them the historical perspective needs to be considered. Moreover, it is necessary to develop a complex approach in which human and natural elements are combined and mutually integrated.

MEMOLA project applies an integrated approach to assessing the role of landscapes in European cultural heritage. The urgent need to safeguard the natural ecosystems has led to the establishment of new environmental protection policies around the world. In the context of natural resource management, sustainable development has become a leading target of policy agenda, and the design of more sustainable alternatives is a driving need. Under this context, the study of the interaction between environment and human activities within cultural landscape archaeology approach is especially important. This interaction can be assessed by an "ecosystem services" (ES) approach, among other methodologies, to attend the relations between natural ecosystems and humans wellbeing. Given the significance of the history of each ecosystem when considering ES, MEMOLA project proposes to provide a general description and history of ecosystems, using a multidisciplinary approach based on information delivered by Landscape archaeology.

MOBJ1: Research the logic framework ruling the process of historical landscapes formation in relation to natural resources within a diachronic framework. Introduce the historical perspective (fourth dimension), considered to be a powerful interpretation key in landscape studies.
MOBJ2: Draw context-tailored strategies of preservation, diffusion and valorisation of the cultural heritage (both tangible and intangible) and of the environment. Stimulate sustainable development in rural areas; analyse the efficiency of these systems and the current problems of survival within the context of global climate change and the European policies framework.
MOBJ3: Develop new methodologies for the study of cultural landscapes, through the creation of scalable working protocols, able to take advantage of the solid background of technologies and analysis methods available to the research group.
MOBJ4: Use a multidisciplinary approach, widening the range of specialists involved in cultural heritage study to agronomists,, hydrologists, botanists, hydro-geologists, geologists and architects. Promote skills-hybridization in research work (both humanist and scientific aspects), prompting new forms of job creation.

Project Results:
The work performed since the beginning of the project has been very intensive across all implementation areas: research, community outreach and socioeconomic impact. Since January 2014 project activities have been conducted at the study areas of Sierra Nevada, Colli Euganei and Monti di Trapani. As introduced in previous mid-term report, the work in Albania started one year later. However, the Albanian partner, CeRPHAAL, has performed an incredible effort to advance work plan tasks and project deliverables. We now can say that all four project areas are being impacted by MEMOLA. In this sense, the coordination and support among partners has been excellent (ANNEX 1), not only during the three Consortium meetings celebrated, but also within the work related to each study area and execution of transversal activities.
In regards to the research work packages the work performed corresponded to: 1) Hydraulic and Archaeological prospection campaigns in the four areas of study, 2) Ethnographic fieldwork, also performed at the four study areas; 3) Archaeological excavations (ANNEX 2) at Pago del Jarafi-Lanteira (Sierra Nevada), Montagnon (Colli Euganei), Pizzo Monaco (Monti de Trapani), Magjerice (Permet) Upper Vjosa Valley, and including ongoing archaeobotanical analysis, geochemistry analysis and study of archaeological materials and artefacts. All archaeological excavations counted with volunteers coming from different European and non-European countries. Since the last reporting period, MEMOLA archaeological excavations have counted with at least 200 volunteers total. 4) Hydrological and Agronomical field work at Sierra Nevada, Colli Euganei, Monti Di Trapani and Vjosa Valley (ANNEX 3) 5) Botanical and edaphological field work at Colli Euganei, Monti Di Trapani and Vjosa Valley. 6) Technical documentation, bibliography search and archival documentation for the four areas of study.
Community involvement work has targeted a diverse number of stake holders. Numerous meetings have been held at a local and regional level with representatives from village councils, regional offices for heritage and cultural promotion, institutions for environmental and territorial management, among others. An important effort has been dedicated towards the funding and consolidation of the Association of Historical and Traditional Irrigation Systems of Andalucía (ANNEX 4). The first organizing effort from the community irrigators communities to come together and work towards the protection and maintenance of such rich living heritage. Thanks to the community work and relationships established with farmers MEMOLA project has collaborated in the development of an interactive and collaborative map of historical irrigation systems present in Granada and Almería. In addition two important Policy Briefs have been issued and presented at different local, regional, national and European venues. The first one dedicated to the impact of European policy on water cultural heritage associated to historical irrigation systems. The second Policy Brief summarises recently developed perspectives on soils that have emerged from the findings of the project.
In order to have a socioeconomic impact in the areas where MEMOLA project intervenes, it was proposed the creation of several cultural thematic routes. These are present in each of the four study areas and aim to promote touristic sustainable practices; and include 4 areas, 10 cultural routes, 160 kilometres of trails and 28 hours hiking. In addition, the work with the schools, cultural associations and the general public has intensified and hundreds of people have been able to benefit from guided touristic tours at archaeological excavations, historical irrigation channels, and heritage trails (ANNEX 5).

Potential Impact:
MEMOLA project is profoundly committed to the science that promotes long-term social change with an impact on contemporary issues. It aims to anticipate, using archaeological research on landscape, the long-term consequences of social, economic and political decision-making.
A) CULTURAL HERITAGE: The historical and archaeological study of the four selected Mediterranean areas will allow a better comprehension of the formation processes of historical landscapes, thus implementing and improving strategies for conservation and protection of these territories. Three of the areas to be analysed are important nature reserves (Sierra Nevada, Colli Euganei and Trapani) and contain a consistent archaeological and monumental heritage (castles, ancient farms, cortijos, archaeological sites, etc.) with untapped potential, which is nowadays in danger of destruction. Through the study, diffusion and valorisation of these historical sites (within the landscape where they are located), we will achieve a revalorisation of these cultural assets, enhancing the attractiveness of the territories. In addition, intangible cultural heritage represented by centennial oral shared knowledge pertaining to the local communities, is extremely important since it conforms local identities. Its preservation implies the maintenance of the regional cultural peculiarities and traditions, both productive and cultural.
The pertinence of the studied regions to a common research and valorisation network, whose partners are sharing objectives and methodologies, will create communication links among the studied regions. The system established will help local institutions and communities in pursuing better decision-making on territory, environment and heritage and enhance the sense of belonging to a common European identity.
B) SOCIOECONOMIC: The valorisation, dissemination and specific actions carried out on these landscapes, will contribute to enhancing social awareness and, at the same time, have a positive impact on the social and economical tissues of the studied areas: 1) Specific conservation proposals involve improving efficiency in the use of resources without losing the values and traditional uses that structure and maintain the landscapes. Water is one of those essential resources in the Mediterranean area; 2) According to the strong dissemination of all results carried out by the project, MEMOLA project aims for the promotion of touristic development in these areas, many of them impoverished and with high youth unemployment rate.
C) ENVIRONMENT: The environmental dimension of this study (water, land and other resources as finite and vulnerable) will allow the identification of ecosystem management strategies that prevent environmental degradation, provide food and habitat to living organisms, and support other natural processes and functions of the Mediterranean mountain ecosystems. To achieve all of these goals, there must have been trade-offs in the past, that will be documented and analysed in light of current environmental conservation paradigms. The analysis of the environmental impact of historical agricultural land-uses is an essential factor in generating conservation strategies, impacting directly on the future environmental health of the mountain range. Another relevant environmental impact issue that will be explored is the past impact of extreme events (droughts, floods) on the environment. The MEMOLA project aims to have a positive impact on the environmental viewpoint of different stakeholders and on new policies formulated in the regions. In particular, 1) Alternative, integrated natural resources management approaches will be identified, leading to an evaluation framework that explicitly determines relative advantages and disadvantages of all these practices and the tradeoffs involved. 2) A set of assessment criteria for environmental services of the Mediterranean mountain agroecosystems will be defined. 3) The results of the project will serve as a reference of the key aspects to be considered in drawing up proposals for mountain agroecosystem management rules (EU policies) that have a positive impact on ecosystem.

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Record Number: 197932 / Last updated on: 2017-05-16
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