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Rural agroforestry artifacts in a city: determinants of spatiotemporally continuous fruit orchards in an urban area

Janeček, Vladimír, Rada, Patrik, Rom, Jiří, Horák, Jakub
Urban forestry & urban greening 2019 v.41 pp. 33-38
agroforestry, biodiversity, cities, cultural heritage, cultural landscape, fruit trees, land policy, land use, orchards, urban areas, Europe
Traditional fruit orchards are an important and conspicuous part of the cultural landscape and heritage. These formerly typically rural artifacts are disappearing across Europe. Some of them, however, remain in big cities, as in our study area of a million city, Prague, in the Czech Republic.We were interested in the most important determinants of the poorly studied urban land use type of orchards from the rural past of the city environment in comparison with those that were not continuous. All orchards were described by characteristics that comprehensively illustrate the actual state of their environment.We found and studied all 76 existing freely accessible fruit orchards in Prague. Thirty-two continuous orchards had a larger area and were mainly determined by rectangular spatial distribution of trees, while 44 newer ones were smaller and had mainly triangular spacing. The majority of orchards were still managed.Even if orchards are a rather marginal type of land use in Prague, we found that continuous and newer sites were highly diversified regarding their structure and surroundings. Nevertheless, old orchards conserve higher potential for the future regarding their biodiversity, land use policy and agricultural value.Traditional fruit orchards are gradually disappearing from the suburbanized landscape, and therefore, their conservation cannot be considered merely as a trend but as a strategy to combat a real loss of cultural heritage. The final loss of this type of land use might lead to the loss of know-how of traditional management.