Vegetation conveying culture and history. Documentation of a coastal cultural landscape in Sogn og Fjordane county

The small farm, Årdalen, located in Selje municipality, Sogn og Fjordane county, is a farm of the pre-industrial agriculture period before modern technical equipment was taken into use at Western Norwegian farms in the 1950s. Årdalen was a farm that combined farming and fishing with a history dating back to 400–385 BC. The farm had neither a road connection nor electricity. The farm was abandoned in 1957, and the fields and meadows have been grazed by sheep and goats for more than 60 years until present. The main objective of our study was to identify and map the former agricultural structure of the farm, including former tilled fields and hay-meadows. We testified to how the present vegetation could verify oral information from local people and information found in old records. The results show that even after 60 years (or more) of livestock grazing, the vegetation found in the two categories still differs, and can be a valuable tool to use in mapping the structure in old agricultural landscapes. The cultural landscape and vegetation structure in Årdalen is however changing, due to a succession of aggressive grasses, ferns and heather. Suggesting proper management-regimes for old cultural landscapes is complicated. We discuss how to implement a management regime which combines protection of the mosaic structure in an old cultural landscape with protection of biological diversity.