Terraced landscapes

Basic Info


Terraced landscapes form a special agricultural and ecological system, and can be found around the entire globe. Based on their diverse forms, it is possible to speak of diverse agricultural and ecological systems. Terraces have been built by developed civilizations for millennia. They reflect a harmony between people and nature, and in many cases also a harmony between people. Terraced landscapes are landscapes with a special value, which reflect people’s creativity and their ability to adapt to natural conditions. On the one hand, cultivated terraces provide food, which enables people to survive, and, on the other, they have great scientific, cultural, historical, ecological, aesthetic, and even psychological, philosophical, and religious value.
Slovenia has an extremely diverse landscape and is among the few places in Europe with cultivated terraces throughout the entire country. As a typical landscape element, they appear in every type of Slovenian landscape, but differ in terms of frequency, form, purpose, and current function. Terraced landscapes can be defined as a complex landscape system, in which natural and social geographical subsystems are balanced in a sensitive way. Modern processes, such as globalization and economic integration, have a strong impact on terraced landscape systems. The Honghe Declaration on the protection and development of terraces, adopted in 2010 at the First World Conference on Terraced Landscapes, draws attention to this pressing and current issue and the special significance of terraced landscapes.
Despite the important landscape-forming role of cultivated terraces, Slovenian scholarship has not paid sufficient attention to this topic (with rare exceptions). This is especially true for geography, whose complex, cause-and-effect approach practically dictates that it unveil the many mysteries connected with the formation of terraced landscapes, their structure, the processes in them, and the demographic and economic effects on their maintenance and intensity of use.
By creating terraces, farmers retained more moisture in the soil and thus kept the soil moist longer; they also successfully prevented the negative effects of erosion, including soil erosion during heavy rain. They regulated drainage by tilting the terrace tread towards or away from the slope. They flattened the treads to make tilling easier, and the construction of access roads presented and continues to present a significant problem. Especially in viticulture, but also in orchard cultivation, gardening, and subsistence arable farming, obtaining farmland by creating terraces was important in hilly areas.
In terms of land use or various types of production, terraces can be divided into tilled, winegrowing, and orchard terraces. In Slovenian Istria, terraces were already built in Classical Antiquity. In recent years, winegrowing terraces have strongly predominated in terms of both scale and activity. Because of established mechanized production, terraced vineyards can be found across all of Slovenia.
The basic goal of the project is to perform a complex geographical evaluation of terraced landscapes based primarily on compilation of a comprehensive and systematic typology of Slovenian terraced landscapes, a statistical analysis of the codependence between the system of cultivated terraces and other landscape systems, and a definition of the multilayered significance of terraced cultural landscapes for modern society. The project will indicate the extent to which contemporary cultivated terraces contribute to the significance, identity, and economic structure of individual landscapes, and how to manage the risks that appear in many Slovenian terraced landscapes due to building cultivated terraces (intensive farming) and their deterioration (landslides) or changes.
The following pilot settlements have been selected for detailed research by natural geographical types of Slovenian landscapes: Krkavče in the Koper Hills (Mediterranean low hills), Merče in the Karst region (Mediterranean plateaus), Rut above the Bača Gorge (Alpine high mountains), Smoleva to the south of Železniki (Alpine hills), Rodine to the west of Begunje na Gorenjskem (Alpine plains), Dečja Vas in eastern White Carniola (Dinaric plateaus), Velika Slevica near Velike Lašče (Dinaric lowland and peneplains), and Jeruzalem in the eastern part of the Slovenian Hills (Pannonian low hills).


The three-year research project was extended for another year and a half. Interviews were conducted with the owners of terraced areas and local farming experts in individual pilot areas, and insights into the issues of terraced landscapes provided by various recognized history, cultural protection, and agriculture experts were also examined. A detailed systematic inventory of cultivated terraces in terraced landscapes was performed for all of Slovenia, in which any lack of clarity was solved through field inspections. Through the digitization of orthophotos and using 1:5,000 and 1:10,000 (for mountainous regions) topographic maps, all terraced areas were systematically captured, which makes it possible to analyze their scale with geographic information systems (GIS), whereby the scale of terraced areas is highlighted in terms of their geological composition, elevation, slope gradient, aspect, and current land use. Lidar analyses were used for detailed study of the overgrowth of terraces because this type of imaging provides insight into the terrain as though the vegetation cover were stripped from the surface. At the mesoregion level of Slovenian natural geographic landscapes, the photo gallery was expanded, and additional aerial photos were commissioned for the pilot areas; some of them have already been carried out (Krkavče and Merče). Several research papers examining individual aspects of terraced landscapes in greater detail have been produced. Researchers actively participated in the Second World Conference on Terraced Landscapes in Cuzco, Peru. Preparations have started for the publication of two volumes. The emphasis in the first volume is on the diversity of the world’s terraced landscapes (to this end, pictorial material is also being collected for major terraced areas around the globe) and Slovenian terraced landscapes at the level of the entire country, macroregions, mesoregions, and pilot areas. The second volume focuses on methods and their evaluation, research findings, and management of terraced landscapes.


Project type
applied research project

land use
cultural terraces
terraced landscape
cultural landscape
protection of cultural heritage
geography of natural disasters
regional geography
agricultural geography
rural geography