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Niche construction, entanglement and landscape domestication in Scandinavian infield systems

Eriksson, Ove, Arnell, Matilda
Landscape research 2017 v.42 no.1 pp. 78-88
conservation programs, cultural landscape, domestication, farms, grazing, humans, land ownership, meadows, modernization, pastures, species diversity, Scandinavia
Domesticated landscapes are formed by complex social and ecological interactions. We study present-day remnants of species-rich hay meadows and pastures in Scandinavia, with historical roots in former ‘infield systems’, initially developed during the first centuries AD and maintained until the modernisation of agriculture during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Infield systems include infields, enclosed areas near farms incorporating hay meadows and crop fields, and surrounding outlying land used mainly for grazing. We interpret the development of Scandinavian infield systems and their relationship to vegetation and human culture using concepts of niche construction and entanglement. A key issue revolves around spatio-temporal stabilisation of managed grasslands, in turn related to a complex of interactions between cultural development (e.g. perceptions of land ownership and management practices) and ecological patterns (e.g. species richness). We propose that niche construction and entanglement are useful concepts bridging studies in social history and ecology, and for developing conservation programmes in cultural landscapes.