Inspiring rural heritage: sustainable practices to protect and conserve upland landscapes and memories (IRIS)


Europe’s upland landscapes are a rich and complex socio-ecological heritage, born of the interaction of nature and culture over millennia. Local communities play an active and essential role in conserving and protecting this heritage, while benefiting wider society. However, current conservation measures and land use decisions consistently fail to consider the historic dimension of mountain landscapes and underestimate the contribution of local practitioners in sustaining their environment through active use. IRIS searches for responses to these circumstances, and to the threats to mountain landscapes from depopulation, abandonment, the loss of traditional skills and land use change driven by the climate emergency, global economic trends and political shifts, by focussing on 5 sites, Spain, France, UK, Italy and Montenegro. Pablo DOMINGUEZ coordinates the works in Montenegro where we focus on Sinjajevina, the greatest mountain pasture of the Balkans and one of the greatest in Europe, still governed communally in many parts of it. The project takes a ‘living heritage’ approach to conservation, and seeks for paths to promoting the ‘protection through use’ of upland environments and adjacent rural areas, while collaborating with local institutions and communities, and providing national and European policy makers with new tools that will enable them to implement a ‘living heritage’ approach to decision-making and participatory conservation of these unique European landscapes

Project dates

 October, 2020 - November, 2023

Research area


  • Living rural heritage
  • mountains
  • agro-forestry-pastoral practices
  • cultural memory
  • participation

Team members

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