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Faccioni, Georgia (2018) Ecosystem Services and sustainability evaluation of alpine dairy cattle systems. [Ph.D. thesis]

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Abstract (english)

Grazing livestock systems play a key role in the maintenance of mountain areas in Europe, contributing to human well-being through the creation of socio-ecological systems in which human activities shape ecosystems and are influenced by local and regional socioeconomic, environmental and cultural conditions. The alpine cattle husbandry is historically based on small herds of the local dual-purpose breed, usually hosted in closed barns located in the low valley, excepts for the summer period in which they are moved to high-pastures (summer farms). During last half of the 20th century, livestock husbandry in the alps had to face the impact of the processes of abandonment and intensification, which threaten the ecological functions of the mountain agroecosystems. Both trends involve land use changes, with the intensification occurring in valleys bottoms, whereas abandoned areas are mainly located at high altitudes and steep slopes. As a consequence, there are severe impacts on terrestrial, aquatic and aerial systems, a decrease in the number of farms and a progressive intensification of the remaining farms (larger herds, milk specialised breed, massive use of extra-farms feed). Issues related to livestock husbandry on food security, agroecosystem protection, biodiversity, animal welfare, social concerns and economic competitiveness, have emerged in the public and scientific debate, strongly demanding for a focus on the sustainability of the sector. Sustainability is defined as the use of available resources for meeting human development goals while maintaining the ability of natural systems to continue to provide the natural resources and ecosystem services upon which the economy and society depend. It is composed of three parts, a social, an environmental and an economic one. Approaches as multifunctionality and Ecosystem Services have been developed to value the provision of additional function apart from commodity outputs to agroecosystems. Both concepts can be used to tackle the current need and social demand for a sustainable development of mountain agroecosystems. The term of Ecosystem Services defines all the direct and indirect contributions of ecosystems to human well-being. They are categorised as provisioning, regulating, cultural and supporting services. However, if managed in an incorrect way, the ecosystem can react with what is defined as an Ecosystem Disservices (EDs), which has negative outcomes for society. The aim of this Ph.D thesis was to assess the multifunctionality of the alpine dairy cattle system in the Alpine agroecosystems, integrating the ESs framework into socio-economic approaches (choice model), and participatory approaches (questionnaire and focus group), involving and adding value to stakeholders’ opinions. This Ph.D thesis is composed of three chapters. The first chapter aimed at analysing, within the Ecosystem Services framework, the sociocultural and economic value of a number of positive functions of Alpine agroecosystems, in a context of simultaneous processes of intensification and abandonment. We first performed interviews with farmers and other local stakeholders (qualitative method) to explore the relationships between the dairy livestock systems and the environment. Then we developed a choice model to rank and value the most important functions of the current agroecosystems (dairy livestock systems and permanent crops) according to the views of local (residents of the study area) and reference (residents of the six neighbouring provinces) populations in three policy scenarios. Results showed that local stakeholders had a positive opinion of the outcomes of the mountain dairy livestock system. Regulation services, represented in the choice model by water quality, were found to be the most valuable for the well-being of society. Considering a hypothetical sustainable development scenario, people showed to be willing to compromise on production rather than cut back on environmental services. Besides, they rejected the current trend of intensification of permanent crops and dairy production with the consequent abandonment of summer pastures. It would be possible to take action to support the dairy sector and promote its sustainability since the Total Economic Value of Alpine agroecosystems calculated was €159.30 per person per year, which exceeded current expenditure on agroenvironmental programmes. The second chapter considered the farmer’s ambitions regarding their life and their farm and the connection between their objectives and the real management practices on the farm located in a mountain area. We performed a principal component analyses (PCA) and a cluster analysis on data coming from face to face questionnaires, identifying three factors (quality of life through diversification, environmental goals and economic goals) and three clusters (Diversification entrepreneurs, Traditional farmers and Planner farmers). The relationships among clusters, behaviours and data on their farm structure and management were tested. The analysis highlighted differences in farmer’s personal goals for their farms and trade-off between economic aspects and social sustainability that was to the detriment of the social sustainability. Significant differences among clusters were found when considering management variables related with the territory. The identification of the heterogeneity of farmers’ behaviour is a relevant starting point to achieve the sustainable development of the mountain farming system and for the application of participatory approaches. The third chapter aimed at investigating the relationship between local supply chains and ESs in Austrian and Italian mountain areas, understanding also to which extent the positive added values generated are communicated to society. In order to do so, we applied a stakeholder analysis, an online survey and a focus group for both the Italian and Austrian study areas. As in the first chapter, we found a general positive vision of the effects of the livestock production chain on the mountain environment and vice versa. Only Italian stakeholders identified a negative impact on the environment, concerning water quality. Common difficulties and opinions among stakeholders of both study areas were unravelled during the focus groups. Stakeholders expressed the need for a common network and of an increase in the collaboration among themselves, to generate a targeted communication of ESs linked to the territory maintenance of the dairy production chains in mountain areas. The results of this Ph.D thesis give interesting insights about the Ecosystem Services and sustainability evaluation of Alpine dairy cattle systems. The assessment through the use multiple tools of analysis, allowed stakeholders and researchers to improve the understanding of the relationship between human activities and the ecosystem and also to identify intervention points for problem solving.

Abstract (italian)

I sistemi zootecnici giocano un ruolo fondamentale nel mantenimento delle aree montane Europee, contribuendo al benessere umano attraverso la creazione di sistemi socio-ecologici in cui le attività umane plasmano gli ecosistemi e sono influenzate dalle condizioni socioeconomiche, ambientali e culturali locali e regionali. Storicamente, l’allevamento zootecnico alpino si basa su piccole mandrie di razze locali a duplice attitudine. Durante la maggior parte dell’anno, le mandrie trovano riparo in stalle del fondo valle, mentre nel periodo estivo vengono trasferite nei pascoli a quote elevate, nelle malghe.
Nell’ultima metà del ventesimo secolo, l’allevamento di bestiame nelle alpi ha dovuto affrontare l’impatto dei processi di abbandono e di intensificazione, i quali minacciano le funzioni ecologiche degli agroecosistemi montani. Entrambe le tendenze implicano dei cambiamenti nell’uso del suolo, con l’intensificazione che prende piede nel fondo valle, mentre le aree abbandonate si localizzano principalmente alle altitudini più elevate e lungo i pendii più ripidi. Di conseguenza, si verificano impatti severi sui sistemi acquatici, aerei, e terrestri; una diminuzione nel numero delle aziende zootecniche e una progressiva spinta all’intensificazione delle aziende rimanenti ( mandrie più grandi, razze specializzate da latte, uso massiccio dei mangimi extra-aziendali). I problemi legati all’allevamento zootecnico sulla sicurezza alimentare, sulla protezione degli agroecosistemi, sulla biodiversità, sul benessere animale, sulle preoccupazioni sociali e culla competitività economica, sono emersi nel dibattito pubblico e scientifico, richiedendo a gran voce una maggiore attenzione sulla sostenibilità del settore. La sostenibilità viene definita come l’uso delle risorse disponibili per raggiungere gli obiettivi dello sviluppo umano mentre si mantiene la capacità dei sistemi naturali di continuare a fornire le stesse risorse naturali e i Servizi Ecosistemici su cui dipendono l’economia e la società. La sostenibilità si compone di tre parti: una sociale, una ambientale e una economica. Per valutare l’approvvigionamento delle funzioni dell’ecosistema, che non rientrino nell’ambito della fornitura di beni di mercato, sono stati sviluppati degli approcci come la multifunzionalità e i Servizi Ecosistemici. Entrambi i concetti posso essere usati per affrontare il bisogno corrente e la domanda sociale di uno sviluppo sostenibile degli agroecosistemi montani. Il termine Servizi Ecosistemici definisce tutti i contributi diretti e indiretti di un ecosistema al benessere umano. Sono categorizzati come servizi di approvvigionamento, di regolazione, culturali e di supporto alla vita. In ogni caso gli ecosistemi, se gestiti in maniera erronea, possono regire con quelli che vengono definiti Disservizi Ecosistemici, che hanno impatti negativi per la società.
Lo scopo della mia tesi di dottorato è stato quello di stimare la multifunzionalità dei sistemi di allevamento di vacche da latte negli agroecosistemi alpini, integrando la struttura teorica dei Servizi Ecosistemici negli approcci socio-economici (modelli di scelta), negli approcci partecipativi (questionari e gruppi di discussione), coinvolgendo e valorizzando l’opinione dei portatori di interesse. Questa tesi di dottorato è composta da tre capitoli.
Il primo capitolo della tesi, puntava all’analisi, nell’ambito della teoria dei Servizi Ecosistemici, del valore socioculturale ed economico di un numero di funzioni positive degli agroecosistemi alpini, in un contesto di due processi simultanei di intensificazione e di abbandono. Per prima cosa, furono svolte delle interviste con gli allevatori e con altri portatori di interesse locali ( metodo qualitativo), per esplorare la relazione tra i sistemi zootecnici da latte e l’ambiente. In seguito, fu sviluppato un modello di scelta per classificare e valutare le più importanti funzioni attuali degli agroecosistemi (i sistemi zootecnici da latte e le colture permanenti), secondo i punti di vista delle popolazioni locali ( residenti nell’area di studio) e di riferimento ( i residenti delle sei provincie confinanti l’area di studio) in tre diversi scenari politici. I risultati hanno mostrato che i portatori di interesse locali avevano una opinione positiva delle attività del sistema zootecnico da latte di montagna. I servizi di regolazione, rappresentati nel modello di scelta dalla qualità dell’acqua, sono stati considerati come i più importanti per il benessere della società. Considerando uno scenario ipotetico di sviluppo sostenibile, le persone si sono mostrate propense al compromesso sulla produzione lattiero-casearia piuttosto che sulla riduzione dei Servizi Ecosistemici. Inoltre, hanno rifiutato il processo corrente di intensificazione delle colture permanenti e della produzione lattiero-casearia, con il conseguente abbandono dei pascoli alpini. Dato che il valore economico totale degli agroecosistemi alpini calcolato è risultato essere di €159.30 pro capite all’anno, che eccede la spesa corrente sui programmi agroambientali, sarebbe possibile intraprendere azione per supportare il settore zootecnico da latte e promuovere la sua sostenibilità.
Il secondo capitolo ha preso in considerazione le ambizioni degli allevatori riguardo la loro vita e la loro azienda, e la connessione tra i loro obiettivi e le reali pratiche di gestione applicate nelle loro aziende montane. Un’analisi in componenti principali (PCA) e un’analisi dei gruppi è stata portata a termine partendo da dati raccolti tramite interviste personali, identificando tre fattori (qualità della vita ottenuta tramite la diversificazione aziendale; obiettivi ambientali; obiettivi economici) e tre gruppi (imprenditori della diversificazione, allevatori tradizionali, allevatori pianificatori). Furono inoltre testate le relazioni tra i gruppi, i comportamenti e i dati sulla struttura e sulla gestione aziendale. Le analisi hanno messo in luce delle differenze negli obiettivi personali degli allevatori per quanto riguardava le loro aziende, e un equilibrio tra gli aspetti economici e la sostenibilità sociale che pendeva a sfavore di quest’ultima. Prendendo in considerazione le variabili di gestione territoriale, sono state trovate differenze significative tra i gruppi . L’identificazione dell’eterogeneità del comportamento degli allevatori è un punto di partenza fondamentale per raggiungere uno sviluppo sostenibile nei sistemi zootecnici montani e per l’applicazione di eventuali approcci partecipativi. Il terzo capitolo della tesi mirava ad investigare la relazione tra le strutture di approvvigionamento locale e i Servizi Ecosistemici nelle aree montane italiane e austriache, cercando anche di capire a che livello viene comunicato alla società il valore aggiunto generato dalla filiera. Per fare ciò, sono state messe in atto un’analisi dei portatori di interesse, una indagine online e un gruppi di discussione sia per l’area di studio italiana che per quella austriaca. Come nel primo capitolo, in generale è stata trovata una visione positiva degli effetti della filiera zootecnica da latte sull’ambiente montano e vice versa. Solo i portatori di interesse italiani hanno identificato degli impatti negativi sull’ambiente, che riguardavano principalmente la qualità dell’acqua. Durante i gruppi di discussione, è stata fatta luce sulle comuni difficoltà e opinioni tra i portatori di interesse di entrambe le aree di studio. I portatori di interesse hanno inoltre espresso il bisogno di una rete di comunicazione comune e di un incremento nelle collaborazioni tra di loro, con l’obiettivo di mirare la comunicazione sui Servizi Ecosistemici legati al mantenimento del territorio e alla produzione zootecnica da latte nelle aree montane. I risultati di questa tesi di dottorato offrono spunti interessanti sui Servizi Ecosistemici e sulla valutazione della sostenibilità del sistema zootecnico di vacche da latte nelle alpi. La stima attraverso l’uso di numerose metodologie di analisi, ha permesso ai portatori di interesse e ai ricercatori di migliorare la comprensione delle relazioni tra le attività umane e gli ecosistemi, identificando possibili punti di intervento per la futura risoluzione dei problemi.

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EPrint type:Ph.D. thesis
Tutor:Sturaro, Enrico
Supervisor:Bernués, Alberto
Ph.D. course:Ciclo 30 > Corsi 30 > SCIENZE ANIMALI E AGROALIMENTARI
Data di deposito della tesi:12 January 2018
Anno di Pubblicazione:12 January 2018
Key Words:Ecosystem Services; sustainability; choice model; partecipatory approaces; dairy cattle systems; mountain
Settori scientifico-disciplinari MIUR:Area 07 - Scienze agrarie e veterinarie > AGR/19 Zootecnica speciale
Struttura di riferimento:Dipartimenti > Dipartimento di Agronomia Animali Alimenti Risorse Naturali e Ambiente
Codice ID:10709
Depositato il:25 Oct 2018 16:28
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