Sardinia and its agrosilvopastoral systems

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Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. With an area of 24,090 square kilometers and a population of about 1,650,000 inhabitants, it is one of the least densely populated regions of Italy and, according to the latest estimates, the richest in woodlands. Sardinia is characterized by a high degree of natural environments and by a close link between communities and their territories. The unique archaeological sites of the Nuragic civilization witness millennial traditions. In 2018, the European Forest Institute granted the “European Forest Island” award to Sardinia acknowledging its commitment to the protection of Mediterranean forest systems and to the substantial investments in favor of the forest heritage and the bio-economy of renewable resources.

The genuineness of Sardinian agricultural productions is well recognized.

In this context agroforestry plays a strategic role, with the presence of a mosaic of agricultural and forest landscapes shaped by the livestock farming systems characterized by almost 4 million heads of sheep, goats, cattle and pigs (ISTAT 2014-2016).

Sardinian main types of agrosilvopastoral systems are: wooded grasslands (meriagos), grazed woodlands (mainly different types of pure or mixed forests of oaks, like holm oak, cork oak, downy oak), Mediterranean maquis with more or less dense shrubs and a combination of intersparse cereals, forage crops and natural pastures. Less present in the island but still important are the windbreak systems based on eucalyptus that can be found in a reclaimed area of the central-western Sardinia (Arborea, Oristano province).

In the agrosilvopastoral contexts, livestock graze usually for the whole year, sometimes in mixed grazing systems (typically sheep, goats and beef cattle), using different feed resources such as herbaceous species, shrubs and trees.
The grazing activity involves private, public silvopastoral areas and common lands where farmers share grazing rights and agree on the partitioning and rules for the use of the grazing area. From a landscape point of view, these silvopastoral systems are defined (Agnoletti, 2013) as “historical rural landscapes”, where traditional land uses still persist, but also where depopulation and consequent land abandonment represent a real threat.