III New Technologies

New Technologies for the Sustainable Management and Planning of Rural Land and Environment

Pietro Picuno, Carmela Sica, Alexandra Dimitrijevic, Alfonso Tortora, Rocco Luigi Capobianco, and Dina Statuto

Abstract New technologies could be adequately introduced for an improved analysis aimed to the sustainable management and planning of the rural land, as well as its environment and landscape. Nowadays, this analysis is easier and more complete through the use of powerful and reliable tools. Several changes can be considered to be as models of territorial development, useful for an appropriate planning of the human interventions in a rural area. Remote sensing techniques could be employed for the monitoring of agricultural land variation, while Geographical Information Systems are excellent tools for landscape modeling and three-dimensional analysis. In this chapter, land-use changes in a rural area located in southern Italy were analyzed by comparing some historical cartographic supports with modern maps, in order to evaluate the morphological and vegetation variations of the agroforestry land during time. Moreover, a landscape analysis was conducted through the implementation of digital terrain models, which were enriched by draping land cover pictures over them. These elaborations finally enabled an evaluation in a scenic way of the aesthetic quality of the agroforestry landscape, allowing a virtual jump back to time periods when digital aerial photography was not yet even possible. This multi-temporal analysis with the support of GIS techniques revealed to have a great potential for assessing and managing landscape diversity and changes of vegetation, as well as for planning sound interventions over the landscape structures.

Introduction

Planning and managing the rural land and its environment are one of the most intriguing examples of technical challenge where a multidisciplinary approach plays a crucial role (Picuno et al. 2012). The agricultural production, both food and nonfood, the social role of rural settlements, the state and diffusion of the infrastructural networks, and the rural architectonic heritage that in many countries constitutes a major positive value should be appropriately considered and synergistically interlaced for a sound planning of the agricultural biosystems. Human activities impose a transformation of the extra-urban land that may lead to the modification of the frail equilibrium of whole ecosystems. Sound planning strategies should be therefore pursued, employing a multidisciplinary approach that should take into account geographical, environmental, and landscape factors as variables interacting among themselves and with the social and economic aspects. In order to simultaneously analyze all these properties, tools able to manage, interpret, and integrate several data are necessary.

Extra-urban land planning must pursuit, as a main goal, environmental sustainability, since sustainable development has been perceived all over the world by social awareness and sensibility and is constantly been considered by new laws and regulations whose attempt is the natural resources protection. In this scenario, an accurate analysis of performing variations and a global monitoring of ecosystems are necessary in order to propose environmental protection politics.

The farmer as a producer has traditionally been in focus when changes in agricultural landscapes are studied. Decisions about husbandry, rotational systems, machinery, fertilization, and pest management do indeed affect the landscape in a crucial way, and landscape dynamics cannot be understood if the farmer's decisionmaking and the surrounding technology, socioeconomics, and organizational structure are ignored. However, normally, the farmer is not the only decision-maker. Often, the farms leased land and the owner may be an equally important actor concerning landscape changes. Farmers are important agents in rural landscape management, as they modify landscape elements to suit their needs. The industrialization and intensification of agriculture over the last 50 years had a negative impact on landscape diversity and habitat values. During the last two decades, farmers have become increasingly engaged in landscape activities, to maintain or create habitats on their property. For the sustainable development of rural settlements, at least four characteristics should be protected: balance between nature and built-up area, historic traditional entities, local communities, and the countryside as an own culture.

 
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