Major mode - Ethnoecology of an insular Mediterranean arboriculture: chestnut groves in Corsica.

Châtaignier multiséculaire échantillonné par le projet CastaCorse dans la commune de Pianullu (vallée de la Bravone), Corse, le 29 oct. 2023, Vincent Battesti
Multisecular chestnut tree sampled by the CastaCorse project in the commune of Pianullu (Bravone valley), Corsica, 29 Oct. 2023, Vincent Battesti
© Vincent Battesti

This project proposes to document and analyze this singular arboriculture of the chestnut tree (Castanea sativa Mill.) on the Mediterranean island of Corsica. It sets up a multi-sited exploration and analysis of the history of chestnut groves and the chestnut tree on the scale of the territory of Corsica, the related cultural practices, its genetic diversity and the associated biodiversity, in an interdisciplinary approach, integrating ethnoecology, ecology and history.

  • The ethnoecological approach considers chestnut trees in the social and ecological systems they form, and enables us to analyse the ways in which local people think about, live in and transform their chestnut-growing environment. It documents the knowledge and practices of chestnut-growing, forms of ownership of chestnut-growing land, representations of the environment and local categorisations.
  • Ethnobotanical surveys involving the collection of chestnut tree samples with the owners are being combined with population genetics analyses in order to understand the local structuring of chestnut tree agrobiodiversity throughout the island, by listing the named types (varieties) known to the inhabitants and chestnut growers. Part of the project carried out with the P2GM platform of the Muséum national d’histoire naturelle (in compliance with French APA rules/ IRCC internationally recognised certificate).
  • Coupled with this approach, the analysis of underground interaction patterns aims to gain a better understanding of the place occupied by chestnut trees in the functioning of the island’s landscapes, via their ability to integrate into shared ectomycorrhizal networks. Soils and root tissues are being collected from sites characterised by their historical and ethnoecological dimensions, according to a sampling plan based on an interdisciplinary typology (ethnographic, historical and ecological criteria) of chestnut groves. Fungal biodiversity is characterised by soil metabarcoding and barcoding of fungal fruiting bodies. Part of the project carried out with the CEFE in Montpellier.
  • Ethnoecology and history also work together: local discourses and accounts of chestnut groves are compared with historical data from a ’historical ethnoecology’ perspective, in order to reconstruct the historical links that the inhabitants forge with these unique island environments.

 Project start: September 1, 2022.

 CNRS PhD student: Doria Bellache (Musée de l’Homme, Muséum national d’histoire naturelle)
co-supervision by:

 Partner: National Botanical Conservatory of Corsica (CBNC - Conservatoire botanique national de Corse, of OEC (Corsican Environment Office).
 Funding: Cullettività di Corsica/ Collectivité de Corse.