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Land use and agriculture sustainability: does landscape matter?

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  • Sylvie Ferrari

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Abstract

In this paper, we focus on showing how landscape can play a role in the sustainability of agricultural activities and what conditions have to be required to consider landscape as a sustainable output in this way. Nowadays, agricultural policies in Europe attach a growing importance to the direct management by agricultural producers of the countryside. This actual trend emphasizes the role of non-commodity outputs in the production process, with respect to the multifunctional nature of agriculture. If the traditional function of the agricultural production process is to provide food, new functions of agriculture are taken into account and reveal the different attributes of land (use and non use values): agriculture may also produce rural amenities (hunting?), landscape, ecological services and habitat for wildlife, biodiversity. Here, a special emphasis is put on landscape. If several definitions exist (a non-market output, a public good, a positive externality of production, a joint production), all are concerned with the fact that landscape and other agricultural outputs are complements: they are often jointly produced. Our analysis is supported by the Georgescu-Roegen?s approach on funds and flows. Here, the dynamic property of landscape implies to consider it as a flow. An analytical representation of the agricultural production process lies upon two types of production factors: the funds -human labour, land and manufactured capital- and the flows -energy, natural resources, materials, pollution, waste and products (goods, landscape, amenities?)-. Funds and flows have the property to be complement in the process. In order to lay emphasis on the physical links between the agricultural production process and the natural environment, we follow a bioeconomic approach where the value of landscape can be appreciated through its physical foundations. According to the second law of thermodynamics, the sustainability of a production process depends upon the quality of all its flow components (inflows and outflows) during a period of time. Thus, the sustainability of any agricultural activity can be measured through the qualitative variation of the production process, i.e. through two major outflows: the waste production and the landscape production. On one hand, every time waste is produced, the irreversibility of the activity is growing and the style of farming is less sustainable (e.g. case of intensive farming). On the other hand, a growing production of landscape traduces an ability to reduce the irreversibility of the production process insofar as it is leading to more biodiversity. A relation between the level of sustainability of any agricultural production process and the landscape change in time may be established and may provide some useful guidelines for policy makers.

Suggested Citation

  • Sylvie Ferrari, 2003. "Land use and agriculture sustainability: does landscape matter?," ERSA conference papers ersa03p56, European Regional Science Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:wiw:wiwrsa:ersa03p56
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Alan Randall, 2002. "Valuing the outputs of multifunctional agriculture," European Review of Agricultural Economics, Foundation for the European Review of Agricultural Economics, vol. 29(3), pages 289-307, July.
    2. England, Richard W., 2000. "Natural capital and the theory of economic growth," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 425-431, September.
    3. Kraev, Egor, 2002. "Stocks, flows and complementarity: formalizing a basic insight of ecological economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(2-3), pages 277-286, December.
    4. Baumgartner, Stefan & Dyckhoff, Harald & Faber, Malte & Proops, John & Schiller, Johannes, 2001. "The concept of joint production and ecological economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 365-372, March.
    5. Kaberger, Tomas & Mansson, Bengt, 2001. "Entropy and economic processes -- physics perspectives," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 165-179, January.
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