A typology of sloping and mountainous olive plantation systems to address natural resources management

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Olive plantation systems occur in a wide variety throughout the Mediterranean, especially in sloping and mountainous areas. Recent drivers of change, including the widespread introduction of mechanisation, increased use of (chemical) inputs and (drip)irrigation have considerably added to this diversity. The various systems have very different resource use patterns and environmental and social performances. This article attempts to grasp these differences and to link systems characteristics to options for natural resources management in the spirit of contemporary agricultural policies that seek to promote a more sustainable agriculture. Cluster analysis was employed to classify 28 olive plantation systems distinguished by regional typologies developed for six study areas: Tras-os-Montes (Portugal), Cordoba and Granada/Jaen (both in Spain), Haffouz (Tunisia), Basilicata/Salerno (Italy) and West-Crete (Greece). Six types of olive plantation systems resulted: (a) very extensive, (b) traditional extensive, (c) semi-intensive low input, (d) semi-intensive high input, (b) intensive and (e) organic. Natural resources management options to address soil erosion, low biodiversity, wildfire risk and excessive water use are explored for each of these systems. In the discussion, it becomes evident that an important quality for a typology lies in its capacity to differentiate likely future development pathways. If options are known, policy-makers can make choices as to what the desired pathway is and what instruments to design to facilitate it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-297
JournalAnnals of Applied Biology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • southern spain
  • soil-erosion
  • agricultural management
  • groves
  • impact
  • conservation
  • orchard
  • runoff
  • water

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