Bio-cultural refugia – Safeguarding diversity of practices for food security and biodiversity
Stephan Barthel, Carole Crumley, Uno Svedin, Global Environmental Change, June 2013, ISSN: 0959-3780

In this article, the authors shed new insights on areas that harbor place specific social memories related to food security and stewardship of biodiversity, calling them bio-cultural refugia. They aim to illuminate how bio-cultural refugia store, revive and transmit memory of agricultural biodiversity and ecosystem services, and how such social memories are carried forward between people and across cohorts. They discuss the functions of such refugia for addressing the twin goals of food security and biodiversity conservation in landscapes of food production. They find that the rich biodiversity of many regionally distinct cultural landscapes has been maintained through a mosaic of management practices that have co-evolved in relation to local environmental fluctuations, and that such practices are carried forward by both biophysical and social features in bio-cultural refugia including genotypes, artifacts, written accounts, as well as embodied rituals, art, oral traditions and self-organized systems of rules. Combined these structure a diverse portfolio of practices that result in genetic reservoirs – source areas – for the wide array of species, which in interplay produce vital ecosystem services, needed for future food security related to environmental uncertainties, volatile financial markets and large scale conflicts. The paper highlights that the dual goals to reduce pressures from modern agriculture on biodiversity, while maintaining food security, entails more extensive collaboration with farmers oriented toward ecologically sound practices. Read the abstract …