Recent land cover changes in Spain across biogeographical regions and protection levels: Implications for conservation policies uri icon

abstract

  • Land use and land cover change is a major component of global change, which directly alters habitat composition, biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. The regional analysis of land cover changes in heterogeneous landscapes can be masked by spatial variations caused by both bioclimatic and socioeconomic factors. Recognizing these influences, however, can be critical for designing conservation policies suited for each region. In this study, we examined the main processes of land cover change in Spain during c. 20 years (1987-2006), using CORINE land cover maps and five comparative spatial frameworks based on biomes (temperate and Mediterranean) and protection levels (Nationally Designated areas, European Natura Net 2000 and unprotected areas). We observed high land cover persistence (ca. 93%) throughout Spain, but with important anthropization processes and internal changes in natural areas which experienced a slight decrease while, agrarian areas remained almost stable. However, there were significant differences in the occupation, intensity and direction of change depending on the biome and protection level. The Mediterranean region had lower persistence and higher anthropization processes than the temperate region, suggesting a high vulnerability to land cover changes for natural habitat and related species. Overall, we observed a lower intensity of anthropization processes in protected areas, increasing the persistence of natural and agrarian areas; key habitats for species conservation. The highest persistence of natural areas corresponds to Nationally Designated Protected (NDP) areas, while in Natura Net 2000 we found the highest agrarian areas persistence. Nevertheless, Natura Net 2000 areas with the exception of those nominated as NDP had the largest increase of artificial surfaces as well as the highest internal processes of change within natural areas due to disturbances. The trends reported in this study suggest the importance of effective management plans and conservation measures that ensure both habitat and species conservation, especially in the Mediterranean region. In the case of Natura Net 2000, where traditional agricultural and livestock activities had a larger importance, it would be advisable to definitively implement the pending management plans, which are feasible and compatible with local human activities. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

publication date

  • 2015
  • 2015