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Wigboldus, Leanna

The Contributions of Biocultural Practices and Traditional Knowledges to Continuing Landscapes: A Holistic Approach to Sustainability and Management of World Heritage Sites?

PhD Candidate: Leanna Wigboldus
Supervisor: (opens in a new window)Dr Claire Cave
Funded By: (opens in a new window)Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship


Heritage discourse has historically focused on a separation of cultural and natural heritage values for evaluation and management purposes, while often neglecting intrinsic intangible elements such as traditional knowledge, social practices, and biocultural management that reflect human interaction at World Heritage sites. While some academic research and international case studies have considered the use of continued traditional management practices for site sustainability, the extent to which these knowledge and management structures contribute to site continuity and resilience requires further understanding. Cultural landscapes are considered to represent a combination of all these values, with particular emphasis on the interaction between people and nature. This project explores traditional knowledges and biocultural practices at various World Heritage continuing cultural landscapes to identify if and how such elements contribute to effective management and continuity.

The main research questions to be considered is:

  1. What elements and practices are required to ensure the continuity and sustainability of a continuing agro-pastoral cultural landscape?
  2. Relating to this, how is an agro-pastoral continuing cultural landscape determined to be successful, and can a framework for continuity be developed to standardize these concepts for use at other WHS on a global scale?

The project will use case studies of three continuing cultural landscapes to assess the increasing awareness of the importance of a holistic approach to World Heritage management, and the use of local and indigenous traditional knowledges and biocultural practices to improve site conservation, sustainability and resilience. Case studies in the English Lake District (UK), the Agricultural Landscape of Southern Öland (Sweden), and Hortobágy National Park – the Puszta (Hungary) were selected for further analysis as they are European World Heritage agro-pastoral landscapes with long histories of continuous land-use and management by local people. The selection of sites was based on their geographic location, accessibility requirements, available resources, the continuing use of biocultural practices at site-level and in management, and the involvement of local communities. The findings from these field visits, along with interviews, surveys, and a review of available literature, will inform the creation of a ‘Continuity Framework’ which will highlight key areas of importance for management of cultural landscapes. The findings from this project and the resulting framework will be aimed at continuing cultural landscapes, but will have far-reaching social and management possibilities for local, national and international sites on a global scale.

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