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Revisiting the Resilience of Chestnut Forests in Corsica: from Social-Ecological Systems Theory to Political Ecology

Genevieve Michon, IRD

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Abstract

The “chestnut civilization” is often used to qualify agrarian inland Corsica. Based on a critical review of historical sources and research on present dynamics, we show how this “civilization” has built up on a long series of resistance and adaptation to external political forces, from Genovese and French domination up to the present period of independence claims. The construction of the castagnetu, the Corsican chestnut (Castanea sativa mill.) forest, as a social-ecological system is based on a constantly evolving compromise between wild and domestic attributes, but also on socio-political resistance, incorporation, and innovation. We argue that the castagnetu’s resilience, beyond its social-ecological qualities and its economic profitability, is closely linked to a constant incorporation of identity and cultural values into chestnut trees and gardens, but also to the role assigned to the castagnetu by its supporters in the political positioning of their relations to both central power and outside actors.

Key words

chestnut; Corsica; political ecology; resilience; social-ecological systems
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087