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Cultural heritage in agricultural landscape: losses


2.1 Losses of cultural monuments and sites will be minimised.


Percentage annual loss of cultural heritage elements in the agricultural landscape

Are we moving in the right direction? Published by the Norwegian Environment Agency

Aerial photography is being used to document the cultural heritage in the agricultural landscape. It is a challenging task to monitor the status of buildings, dry-stone walls, ruins and other elements of the cultural heritage, because many of them are hidden by vegetation, making it difficult to interpret the aerial photos. Between 11 and 15 per cent of the cultural heritage elements have been lost, but no major changes have been registered in the five years since the previous survey.

Only small changes in land use around the cultural heritage elements were registered in this five-year period. The results showed some decline in the area of forest, and also less arable land/meadow/horticultural land. There was an increase in the area of open farmland that is not being actively managed. This may indicate a growing tendency for open landscapes to become overgrown.

Little traditional use of summer farms

Almost 1600 traditional summer farms in selected regions have been investigated. The results show that almost 70 per cent of the farmhouses are in good condition, but this is only true of 43 per cent of the cowsheds and other livestock buildings, and 29 per cent of the barns. More than 25 per cent of the summer farms show no sign of any form of use. This generally means that the buildings will deteriorate and the landscape will become overgrown. 

Only 4 per cent of the summer farms are still used for milk production, while about 30 per cent are used for grazing or haymaking. Almost 60 per cent of the summer farms are used only as private holiday cabins, and about 1 per cent are used in the tourist industry (offering accommodation, meals or information).
The proportion of summer farms that are in use varies between regions of Norway. The terrain in Eastern Norway is less rugged, and the summer farms are generally more accessible than those in the fjord areas of Western Norway. This has a considerable impact on how much they are used and how well they are maintained. About 7 per cent of the summer farms are connected to the electricity grid, and this also influences how much they are used.

Better figures available in five years’ time

So far, only cultural heritage elements in selected regions of Norway have been investigated. It will take roughly another five years before data collection is completed, giving a better picture for Norway as a whole.