Is multifunctionality the future of mountain pastoralism? Lessons from the management of semi-natural grasslands in the Pyrenees

  • Feliu López-i-Gelats Agroecology and Food Systems Chair, University of Vic-Central, University of Catalonia. C/ de la Laura 13. 08500 Vic (Barcelona)
  • Marta G. Rivera-Ferre Agroecology and Food Systems Chair, University of Vic-Central, University of Catalonia. C/ de la Laura 13. 08500 Vic (Barcelona)
  • Cristina Madruga-Andreu Autonomous University of Barcelona, Campus UAB, Dept. Animal and Food Science. 08193 Bellaterra (Barcelona)
  • Jordi Bartolomé-Filella Autonomous University of Barcelona, Campus UAB, Dept. Animal and Food Science. 08193 Bellaterra (Barcelona)
Keywords: land abandonment, diversification, rural development, Arrhenatherion elatioris


Land abandonment is pervasive in mountainous Europe. In the present situation of price-cost squeeze on pastoral households and general shift in the role of farming, the development of farming abandonment risk regions is generally associated with adoption of new multifunctional rural development strategies, such as farm tourism, which in the end entail less time being devoted to farming practices. We explored the effects of such developmental scheme on the preservation of semi-natural grasslands, in particular, and on the sustainability of mountain pastoralism, in general. While the effects on the preservation of semi-natural grasslands of full abandonment have been extensively explored, this is not the case of partial abandonment. Results showed that the adoption of simplified and low-cost management regimes, associated with partial abandonment and the increased adoption of part-time farming, immerses semi-natural grasslands in processes of secondary succession that undermine both their conservation and pastoral functions. This points the need for caution when endorsing multifunctional developmental schemes in farming abandonment risk regions, particularly when those imply less labor being devoted to pastoral practices. In conclusion, we stress that in farming abandonment risk regions it is possible to guarantee both viable pastoralism and diversified rural economy. However, it is necessary to implement developmental strategies that are centered on stimulating synergies between pastoralism and other economic activities, rather than promoting activities that depend on additional farmers’ polyvalence.


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How to Cite
López-i-Gelats, F., Rivera-Ferre, M. G., Madruga-Andreu, C., & Bartolomé-Filella, J. (2015). Is multifunctionality the future of mountain pastoralism? Lessons from the management of semi-natural grasslands in the Pyrenees. Spanish Journal of Agricultural Research, 13(4), e0307.
Agricultural environment and ecology