- The landscape of Southern Öland takes its contemporary form from its long cultural history, adapting to the physical constraints of the geology and topography.
- Southern Öland is an outstanding example of human settlement, making the optimum use of diverse landscape types on a single island.
Photo: Bent A Lundberg, Raä
What makes Southern Öland a World Heritage Site?
Limestone and a warm, dry climate have set limits to the uses the islanders can make of their landscape. In earlier times the land was divided into infields and outfields. The infields were nearest the village and consisted of arable land and meadowland. The outfields – the alvar plains and the coast lands – were used for grazing. With the transformation of agriculture in the 19th century, this distinction disappeared on the mainland and elsewhere in Europe. Instead of being a part of the agricultural system, the outfields were used for timber production. In Öland this was ruled out by natural conditions and so the old division was retained. Today the islanders farm the land which has been under the plough for generations and put livestock to pasture on lands which have been grazed for millennia – a unique situation.
It was the forefathers of today’s farmers who made possible the designation of Southern Öland as a World Heritage Site. In order for the unique natural and cultural qualities of the place to survive, the future must also include a living agriculture. In Sweden we have often highlighted the small-scale farming of earlier times as an aesthetic example to be followed. We have grown accustomed to modern rationalisation as a severe threat to the cultural and natural qualities of the landscape. People in all ages have impacted on their landscape according to their needs, knowledge and skills and the technical aids available. And so it is important to look, not only to the past, but to the future as well.