The role of traditional Erica arborea L. management practices in maintaining northeastern Sicily’s cultural landscape

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Abstract

The tree heath (Erica arborea L.), a small evergreen tree found in the Mediterranean region and parts of Eastern and Central Africa, produceslignotubers that are highly valued for making smoking pipes. The Peloritani Mountains of northeastern Sicily are historically one of the mostimportant areas in Italy for the production of these high quality lignotubers, known as briar root wood. In the past, tree heath shrublands were alsoan important source of charcoal. Erica arborea utilisation has declined dramatically during the past century, mostly due to the decreasing demandfor smoking pipes, as well as the increasing frequency of wildfires and large-scale afforestation activities in this region. Until recent decades, Ericaarborea management (grub felling), which represented an important economic activity for some local communities, also contributed to wildfireprevention by maintaining low heath tree cover which helped to inhibit fire spread. The majority of Erica arborea maquis is currently found onState-owned lands where traditional harvesting practices (i.e., uprooting trees) is discouraged, leading to higher density stands more susceptible tofire. At present, the tree heath industry is in sharp decline, with irregular management of the resource and poor commercial value of heath root wooddue in part to frequent fires. Recently social trends and the establishment of new protected areas in tree heath shrublands discourage the utilizationof Erica arborea and the conservation of the material culture and landscape associated with its management. It is proposed that tree heathcultivation be continued only in those areas best suited in order to preserve its cultural and environmental roles, and that forest managementpractices be improved to increase the economic viability of tree heath grub felling activities.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)61-70
RivistaForest Ecology and Management
Volume249
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Forestry
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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