Place names, or toponyms, provide a useful geographical reference system; they can help analyse past landscapes, recover history and understand changes. Among place names, plant place names (phytotoponyms) can be used to analyse the current and past distribution of plants and plant communities and to highlight changes in land use due to human impacts and climate change. We assessed the feasibility of using place names related to species and forest ecosystems to evaluate changes that have affected the forest landscape. As a case study, we considered Calabria, a region in southern Italy rich in toponymic studies. We used the official topographic maps of Calabria, at scales of 1:25,000 and 1: 10,000, and literature data on Calabrian toponymy. To interpret toponyms related to plants and avoid errors, we performed a joint linguistic and naturalistic analysis. A total of 1609 phytotoponyms were identified relating to 45 forest species (28 trees and 17 shrubs) and 399 place names generically related to woods and forests. The most frequent plants associated with place names were Castanea sativa (8.3% of all plant place names), Quercus pubescens s.l. (7.2%), Salix sp. pl. (6.9%) and Quercus frainetto (5.6%). All the phytotoponyms were georeferenced and mapped in a GIS. Phytotoponym distribution maps were compared with current Calabrian forest vegetation, using digital orthophotos, land use maps and literature data. A close correspondence between phytotoponyms and forest vegetation for the mountain belt was identified. In contrast, in the basal belt, we found poor correspondence between phytotoponyms and current forest vegetation, especially for wet forests, that can be accounted for by the severe changes in the landscape due to the agricultural and urban transformations that have occurred. The spread of phytotoponyms concerning species linked to forest degradation, such as Spartium junceum, emphasises the ancient anthropic impacts on forests. Our study shows that phytotoponyms are an important tool for analysing changes in vegetation over time. They make it possible to reconstruct changes in the landscape and the intended use of the territory and provide useful information on the restoration of forest ecosystems.

Analysis of the Forest Landscape and Its Transformations through Phytotoponyms: A Case Study in Calabria (Southern Italy)

Spampinato, Giovanni;Musarella, Carmelo Maria
2022-01-01

Abstract

Place names, or toponyms, provide a useful geographical reference system; they can help analyse past landscapes, recover history and understand changes. Among place names, plant place names (phytotoponyms) can be used to analyse the current and past distribution of plants and plant communities and to highlight changes in land use due to human impacts and climate change. We assessed the feasibility of using place names related to species and forest ecosystems to evaluate changes that have affected the forest landscape. As a case study, we considered Calabria, a region in southern Italy rich in toponymic studies. We used the official topographic maps of Calabria, at scales of 1:25,000 and 1: 10,000, and literature data on Calabrian toponymy. To interpret toponyms related to plants and avoid errors, we performed a joint linguistic and naturalistic analysis. A total of 1609 phytotoponyms were identified relating to 45 forest species (28 trees and 17 shrubs) and 399 place names generically related to woods and forests. The most frequent plants associated with place names were Castanea sativa (8.3% of all plant place names), Quercus pubescens s.l. (7.2%), Salix sp. pl. (6.9%) and Quercus frainetto (5.6%). All the phytotoponyms were georeferenced and mapped in a GIS. Phytotoponym distribution maps were compared with current Calabrian forest vegetation, using digital orthophotos, land use maps and literature data. A close correspondence between phytotoponyms and forest vegetation for the mountain belt was identified. In contrast, in the basal belt, we found poor correspondence between phytotoponyms and current forest vegetation, especially for wet forests, that can be accounted for by the severe changes in the landscape due to the agricultural and urban transformations that have occurred. The spread of phytotoponyms concerning species linked to forest degradation, such as Spartium junceum, emphasises the ancient anthropic impacts on forests. Our study shows that phytotoponyms are an important tool for analysing changes in vegetation over time. They make it possible to reconstruct changes in the landscape and the intended use of the territory and provide useful information on the restoration of forest ecosystems.
2022
forest landscape change, plant place names, forest restoration, habitat
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12318/120782
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