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In the zone? Nature and culture in a swedish biosphere reserve

Conference contribution
Authors Katarina Saltzman
Published in PECSRL The Permanent European Conference for the Study of the Rural Landscape, 20-24 Aug 2012, Leeuwarden/Terschelling, Nederländerna
Publication year 2012
Published at Department of Conservation
Language en
Keywords nature, culture, boundaries, biosphere reserves, zonation
Subject categories Nature conservation and landscape management, Ethnology


Despite efforts to bridge or dissolve the divide between nature and culture within landscape management, many projects still rely on well-recognised nature/culture boundaries. Some approaches more than others, specifically aim at an integrated perspective on nature and culture. One important example of this is the designation of biosphere reserves, within UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB). This paper will discuss the role of the concepts nature and culture in a recently appointed biosphere reserve in Sweden, in relation to the wider context of the MAB programme. Biosphere reserves aim to integrate conservation and sustainable development, and according to the MAB programme this ought to be carried out through a zonation of each biosphere reserve into “core areas”, “buffer zones” and “transition areas”. UNESCO has presented the general profiles of these three zones: core areas should have a focus on “conserving biological diversity” and on “minimally disturbed ecosystems”. Adjoining buffer zones may be used for ”environmental education, recreation, ecotourism”, whereas the more peripheral transition areas “may contain a variety of agricultural activities, settlements and other uses”. Apparently, despite the integrative ambitions of the MAB programme, it is clear that the zonation idea is firmly rooted in a perspective where nature and culture are seen as separate and possible to keep apart. The reserve that will be more closely examined in this paper is “Lake Vänern Archipelago and Mount Kinnekulle”, a rural area that was designated as a biosphere reserve in 2010. This area is located in southwestern Sweden, in connection to Vänern, the third largest inland lake in Europe. Some of the key questions that will be addressed in this paper are: How does the MAB principle of zoning affect the roles ascribed to nature and culture within this recently created biosphere reserve? What kind of geographical and conceptual boundaries related to nature and/or culture have been drawn within this reserve? Which stories are told about nature and culture when this biosphere reserve is presented to the public? The paper is based on research conducted within one part of the ongoing research project Landscape Diversity and The Nature/Culture Divide: Landscape Character Analysis, Designated Areas and the Problem of ”Scalar Insularity” in Spatial Planning.

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