The beauty and bucolic feeling of this photo encompass not only nature, but a long period of human presence. Portugal’s Serra da Estrela mountain has exceptional spontaneous summer pastureland. In the past, pastoralism was characterized, in this region, by a transhumant activity, an ancestral practice which since the medieval ages had characterized the region. This practice marked this cultural landscape, with a social-ecological system that allowed the seasonal grazing in the mountain uplands, and down, in the valleys and lowlands, during the winter.
An important economic activity - the production and transformation of wool - was the main driving force for numerous herds of sheep (mainly from the merino sheep breed), grazing in the uplands during the summer. Nowadays, the dominant breed is the bordaleira, and the productive main goal, with an important role for local economy, is the milk for the production of Serra da Estrela’s cheese.
Nave de Santo António, the place of this image, is a flattened depression of glacial origin, and one of the chosen for grazing of sheep and goats’ herds. Characterized by the grassland, it is mainly dominated by a grass, cervum () and other species adapted to cold, acid and poor soils, with high level of humidity. They compose important habitats for nature conservation, including numerous endemic species and protected areas for nature conservation of Natura 2000 network.
With the decrease of traditional pastoralism, there is a loss of valuable species and habitats. One challenge nowadays is to conserve a balanced, harmonious, productive and still meaningful landscape. The traditional knowledge, practices and other tangible features and intangible relationships are encapsulated in rural landscapes. This landscape is representative of a common practice in European Mediterranean region, and demonstrate natural and cultural diversity.
Rural Landscape criteria:
- Local and Traditional Knowledge Systems
- Cultures, Value Systems and Social Organisations
- Landscapes and Seascapes Features
Author(s): Raquel Carvalho
Photo Credit: Raquel Carvalho