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Linking Biocultural Diversity and Sacred Sites: Evidence and Recommendations in the European Framework

  • Fabrizio FrascaroliEmail author
  • Bas Verschuuren
Chapter
Part of the Environmental History book series (ENVHIS, volume 5)

Abstract

There is growing recognition that sacred natural sites (SNS) form hotspots of biocultural diversity and significantly contribute to conservation in traditional non-western societies. Using empirical evidence from SNS in Central Italy, we illustrate how a similar link between spiritual, cultural, and biological values can be fundamental also in relatively secular and modernized European contexts. We show that SNS are key to sustaining traditional practices and local identities, and represent important instances of biodiversity-rich cultural landscapes. Based on other case studies from across Europe, we suggest that these conclusions can be relevant also at a broader European scale. Greater awareness from planners and policy-makers, however, is needed to safeguard and emphasize the role of European sacred sites as refugia for biocultural diversity. We review policy guidelines on SNS previously developed by International Union for the Conservation for Nature (IUCN) and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and aimed at protected area managers and planners. We assess the applicability of these guidelines in European contexts, and complement them with findings and insight from Central Italy. We provide recommendations for guidelines that are suited to SNS related to mainstream faiths in Europe.

Keywords

Biocultural landscape Biocultural refugia Biodiversity management and conservation Cultural heritage Policy guidelines Sacred natural sites Spiritual values Traditional ecological knowledge Traditional livelihoods Biocultural diversity 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We are thankful to the people of Central Italy for their hospitality and sharing the insights that are at the basis of this work. We also acknowledge Josep-Maria Mallarach, Marc Hall, and Vita de Waal for stimulating discussion. Fabrizio Frascaroli is funded by the Cogito Foundation.

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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Religion and Nature Group, Department of ReligionUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental StudiesUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  3. 3.Sociology of Development and Change Group, Sub-department of Sociology and Anthropology of DevelopmentWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands

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