The volume ‘Local Environmental Problems and Answers in Hungary and Romania‘ published a series of papers developed after a workshop organized at Sapientia University by colleagues from Faculty of Law, University of Debrecen. I developed an essay for this volume, reflecting about the instrumental, intrinsic and relational values related to wood-pasture management in Southern Transylvania, Romania. This is a well studied region by us and assuming that I understand the three value domains as well as the social-ecological systems of this region, I attempted to identify values and human actions (whether management or socio-cultural manifestations) related to wood-pastures and their impact on ‘wood-pasture condition’. Under ‘wood-pasture condition’ I understand the complexity of the wood-pasture as ecosystem; a good ecological condition means scattered trees and shrubs across the pasture in various densities and ages while sustaining livestock grazing. Such systems can support high biodiversity, they can function as ‘wild’ systems while they produce food. First, here is a summary of the value domains addressed in the essay.
In the first part of the essay I overview the three value domains related to historical pasture management in the Saxon cultural region of Transylvania, based on published old literature. While instrumental values dominate, I found several examples of relational values and very little written evidences about intrinsic values. The instrumental and relational values were strongly related to each other, for example, pasture clearing from shrubs for maintaining open pasture surfaces were often associated with cultural gatherings when the whole community was engaged.
The second part of the essay is built on my recent understanding on human-wood-pasture relationship in the studied region, based on interviews and management projects were I was involved during the past decade. I have learned that there is a mismatch between the values reported by people and their absolute impact on the wood-pasture ecosystem via management. For example, in one hand managers of the wood-pasture can report tradition, healthy lifestyle, freedom and ancient human-nature connections as important reasons for managing wood-pasture, but on the other hand the same manager can remove unproductive elements from the pasture such as large old trees, despite the recognized value of these trees for iconic species such as white stork. Other examples includes the lack of tree regeneration on wood-pastures and overgrazing by sheep, despite the fact that the managers report strong and positive and responsible links between them and the managed wood-pasture.
My conclusion is that relational values are very important bridges between people and nature. I would suggest that researchers should go beyond the people`s declarations and descriptions (reflecting and pointing towards their care about the ecosystems they manage) and assess the condition of the ecosystem as well, in order to understand the power of the values in sustaining ecologically and economically resilient ecosystems.