A sustainable and symbiotic relationship between human occupation and a natural waterscape. The Afife case study, from the XIIth to the XXth century
The waterscape defined by the Afife creek (Portugal) is a hotspot of time and cultural cross-references. In the 1200s, the presence of Benedictine monks, in the Convent of S. João de Cabanas, suggest the existence of a Catholic agrarian landscape. Benedictine monks ought to provide shelter, food, wool for blankets, and products for religious sacred services to pilgrims. Therefore, wheat, hay or barley, vineyards and olive trees would be cultivated. As such, the landscape should reveal the cultivation of cereals, olive trees, vineyards, and grazing lands, and mills to mow the cereals, produce olive oil, and saw the wood. The design of the former landscape on cereals, wine, olive trees, sheep, goats and sawing industry in the area, under the Benedictine convent of S. João de Cabanas, together with its architectural structure, is strongly related to the XVIth century. In particular, the cross of S. Tiago de Compostela (Spain), indicating a route of pilgrimage, and the concentration of seven water mills in a 100 meters upstream distance to the convent, reveal a great presence of permanent water power. The present irregular distribution of the remaining pine-trees, oaks, eucalyptus and acacias indicate changes in the agrarian exploitation throughout the XIXh and XXth centuries. The Ecalyptus, original from Australia and New-Zeeland, was introduced in Portugal in the 1800s, while the Acacia was introduced in the 1900s, to sustain moving sands. Their expansion in the slopes of the Afife creek suggests very recent farming abandonment (after 1940s). This paper proposes to discuss agro-forest sustainable adjustments to changing culturaleconomic drivers in the long run, through a case study. The case study is the Afife waterscape transformation, located in the village of Afife in the North of Portugal. The analyses will adopt an interdisciplinary approach crossing diverse sources of information and methodologies.
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