The project is funded by the Austrian Academy of Sciences within the program “Joint Excellence in Science & Humanities” and supports a research exchange with Dr. Žiga Zwitter from the University of Ljubljana. In the first, archival phase, the project will study 17th and 18th century grassland management in selected Austrian and Slovenian Alpine sites. It will concentrate (1) on human interventions into grasslands, (2) on historical traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) strongly affecting grassland management and on changes in TEK over time, (3) on environmental conditions and their change. Special emphasis will be placed on biodiversity-rich extensively managed grasslands in small floodplains and flood-prone slope sections adjacent to Alpine brooks and to upper courses of rivers.
In the second phase, the TEK collected from archival documents will be critically evaluated with the help of Viennese experts. The possibilities of its reintroduction to raise long-term resilience – which decreased when farming intensification rose in an industrialized way – and foster biodiversity through sustainable management of natural resources will be explored. In the investigated Alpine areas, (1) the potential for preservation and restoration is relatively high due to a lower degree of industrial transformation of the landscape, and (2) a marked decline in farming and massive abandonment of agricultural land took place in the 20th century, causing, among other things, erosion of TEK. In order to improve the resilience to environmental change in Alpine grasslands, long-term evidence-based best practices on how to raise the sustainability of parts of the Danube River Basin via traditional grassland management will be collected, interdisciplinarily analysed and synthesized. A comparison of these data with selected areas of Eisenwurzen, a designated Austrian long-term socio-ecological research site, will be attempted.
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