Research papers

Assessing impact of forest cover change dynamics on high nature value farmland in Mediterranean mountain landscape


A general trend of scrub encroachment and natural forest expansion (old-field succession) has been occurring in the past fifty years in Mediterranean mountain areas. While this phenomenon enhances a series of ecological processes and environmental services, it may represent a threat for biodiversity conservation when occurring on high nature value (HNV) extensive farmland. These open areas, created by traditional farming systems, have been recognized as a critically important European biodiversity resource. Understanding the drivers of Land Use and Land Cover Change (LUCC) and their implications on the dynamics of forest and HNV farmland habitats plays a crucial role in biodiversity conservation in protected areas. In this perspective, the case study here presented aims to model recent (1989-2008) LUCC in a National Park of the Central Apennines (Italy) and to produce a mid-term forecast (2008-2020). In the past twenty years, 57% of the land uptake by shrubland and 46% by forest has been occurring on former HNV farmland. Mid-term projections (2008-2020) confirm further HNV farmland decline. Localization of HNV farmland habitats vulnerable to change is a valuable decision-making tool to tradeoff in protected areas the conservation of traditional landscapes with the increase of forest and shrubland areas. In this perspective, concrete socio-economical and silvicultural measures are outlined to preserve these socially and economically-fragile open habitats.


forest dynamics; land use and land cover change; spatial drivers; high nature value farmland

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