by Ludovica Schiaroli
Interviewing Santi Llacuna Claramunt, the director of the Garraf Park and Parc d’Olèrdola, is an opportunity to find out how the project is progressing also in the other area where it is being tested how adaptation to climate change passes from the ancient art of dry stone walls.
The peculiarity of the Stonewallsforlife project is in fact that of having already identified the site where to replicate the project: the Parc del Garraf which has the right characteristics to carry out the project in parallel, but as Santi explains the most interesting part is how despite the fact that there are peculiarities that distinguish and characterize the two territories, the dry stone walls remain the central element to respond effectively to the climate changes now underway.
What are the environmental characteristics of the Garraf Park?
The climate of the park is typically Mediterranean, characterised by rainfall in spring and autumn and mild temperatures.
Garraf Park is a karstic massif, formed by a lot of limestone. The limestone is a very hard rock but water and carbon dioxide dissolve it easily over the years. There are a series of very characteristic formations, such as chasms and dolines.
The Garraf Park is very hostile because living here was very complicated. In the 18th century, with the possibility of planting vineyards, many of these areas were recovered, managing to make dry stone walls and terraced the territory to be able to plant the vineyards. Unfortunately at the end of the 19th century the phylloxera (1) appeared, the vineyards disappeared and these terraces were occupied by pines mostly and this made it possible to burn very easily.
The dry stone terraces characterise its area. What is their current state and what function do they have for the area?
Despite the current depopulation, in the 18th century there was an increase in the population, accompanied by a great expansion in the cultivation of grapes and wheat; it is estimated that 40% of the space was agricultural and a large part was made up of dry stone walls. After the phylloxera plague (1879 – 1880) agricultural activity stopped and today only 3% of the agricultural space is used. Most of the dry stone wall terraces are occupied by shrubbery and pine trees.
In the project, the Garraf Park was identified as the perfect place to develop a replication strategy based on a complete environmental, social and economic evaluation. It has already started its first studies? What are you doing?
With regard to Action C3 “Strategy and actions for replicability and transferability in the Garraf Park”, over the last few months various virtual meetings have been held with the University of Genova to determine the main characteristics of the replication site, the Can Grau estate. Within this area, information has been collected on geomorphological features, historical forest fires, hydrogeological features, lithology, as well as other characteristics appropriate to a small geographical scale. At the same time, the Penedesencs Institute of Studies has been contacted to work in collaboration, as they have experience and a line of research on dry stone walls.
I respect the C4 action “Elaboration and adoption of adaptation plans”. During 2020 several virtual meetings have been held with the project’s coordination team, with the technical staff of the Garraf Park, with the technical staff of the Life Clinòmics project as well as with the technical staff of the Catalan Office for Climate Change, which is the technical unit of the Government of Catalonia attached to the Directorate General for Environmental Quality and Climate Change of the Ministry of the Environment.
Have you already started to present the project to the park’s inhabitants and if so, how was it received?
As for the preparatory action A3 “Identification and participation of stakeholders”, letters are being sent to the agents of the territory who we think may have an interest in the project and we are seeing a great deal of interest. In addition, a presentation day is being organised by the nine town councils that are part of the park and cover the 12,377 hectares of protected area.
On the other hand, as far as communication of the project is concerned, we have translated the content of the website from Italian to Catalan because it can be used as an information base for the local public of the Parc del Garraf and the general public of Catalonia.
What are the effects of climate change on your territory?
The Park has been affected in recent years by two major fires, the most important of which were in 1982 with 10,000 hectares and in 1994 with 4,300 hectares burned. The increase in temperature and the change in the water regime (increase in torrential rainfall, greater aridification of the territory, among others) will change the distribution of those species that are at the limit of their tolerance ranges in the Park.
What are the objectives you would like to achieve at the end of the project?
What we intend to achieve with this Life Stonewalls project is to agree on and promote the value of this intangible cultural heritage of humanity, which is knowing how to build these dry stone walls, to bring all the institutions in this area into contact with each other and then, at an institutional level, outside this area, and with our other Life partners, such as the Italians and the Greeks, to implement this strategy together. Moreover, if we rebuild these walls and develop strategies to preserve this heritage, we can surely minimise the effects of climate change, which are already almost upon us.
The main objective of this Life project is to give value and importance to dry stone walls in order to face climate change. In fact, one of the strong points of this project is its replicability: we want to make a model that can be replicated in different parks in Europe. In the previous studies that have been made, it has been seen that there are three optimum areas to be able to make this replicability.
Two of these areas where the replicability will be carried out are in the Cinque Terre National Park. The third area is here, in the Garraf Park, specifically in the Can Grau estate. This case presents similar characteristics, such as terraced areas with abandoned and in many cases deteriorated dry stone margins. But there are different problems. In this case we do not have so many problems with floods but we do have problems with fires. Another differential is the use of livestock to maintain the landscape and also to deal with forest fires.
As a whole, all these differences we have regarding the use of dry stone walls in the Cinque Terre Park will enrich the project in the sense that we will see different visions and different aspects that dry stone walls have to face climate change.
(1) Insect very harmful to the vine, native to North America, appeared in Europe in the second half of the nineteenth century: it quickly causes serious damage to the roots and the consequent death of the attacked plant. Because of the destructive action of the parasite the continent’s viticultural heritage were completely rebuild.