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Section: New Results

Analysis of socio-ecological dimensions of human activities – A case study of Beaufort cheese production in the Maurienne Valley

The PhD thesis of Michela Bevione aims at analysing socio-ecological dimensions of human activities creating wealth by coupling quantitative-biophysical approaches and qualitative and socio-economic methodologies to assess territorial metabolism. By focusing on the interactions between flows and actors, the methodology we propose aims at providing a methodological framework for the understanding of a territory and its capability.

As a case study for this thesis, we chose to focus on the production of the AOC-labelled cheese Beaufort in the Maurienne Valley (Savoie department, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, France). Indeed, agriculture play a structuring role for the economic and social dynamics of the valley, and the landscape construction induced by farming activities contributes to create favourable conditions to the development of the touristic sector. Beaufort represents the flagship product of the agricultural sector in the valley and most of farms are dedicated to milk production for the Beaufort industry.

In [7] we represent the circulation of material flows through flow maps, showing the movement of material and monetary resources and products, their direction, source and destination. We focus on the circulation of flows related to the Beaufort industry within the Maurienne Valley and between the valley and other territories. Through Sankey diagrams (a specific kind of flow maps, where the width of the arrows is proportional to the flow quantity) we present the dominant contributions to the overall material flows circulation. This kind of representation is appropriate to characterise the circulation of material flows, the allocation of environmental pressures throughout the Beaufort industry, as well as the monetary dimension and the added value associated to Beaufort production. Mapping the geographical origin of input resources and the destination of output products and incomes allows to evaluate actors’ capacity to create wealth through the activation and mobilisation of local resources and/or their dependence on foreign inputs.

Furthermore, results include schematic representations of the relations between local, extra-territorial actors and the circulation of material, environmental and monetary flows. The influence of immaterial resources (informational flows and traditional savoir-faire) and local infrastructures on the circulation of flows, and vice versa, is illustrated. Finally, positive and negative retroactions induced by output products on input resources for Beaufort production are drawn, as well as the interactions with other sub-systems creating wealth in the valley.