Fostering sustainable development in Eastern Europe:
A case study of ancient agricultural landscapes in Central Romania
Unprecedented global change poses an urgent challenge to humanity because it threatens ecosystems and human well-being, especially in poor countries. Sustainable development depends on the forces of global change being channelled wisely, and this requires a thorough understanding of social-ecological dynamics. We will implement a transdisciplinary research agenda to foster sustainable development in Eastern Europe, with particular emphasis on ancient agricultural landscapes in Central Romania. Central Romania is a fascinating area because of its exceptionally rich cultural and natural heritage. Ancient agricultural practices without machinery or artificial fertilisers have maintained unusually high biodiversity, from large carnivores to rare orchids. Following its recent inclusion in the European Union, Central Romania now faces a delicate balancing act between the aspirations of local people for prosperity and the region’s unique heritage values. Our research agenda involves natural scientists, social scientists and regional stakeholders. The research team will map biodiversity and the ecosystem services generated by it, and will identify formal and informal institutions that can provide leverage points for enabling sustainable land use practices. The project is funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, via a Sofja Kovalevskaja Award to Joern Fischer, and is hosted by Leuphana University Lueneburg. The Mihai Eminescu Trust is the major Romanian project partner.
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