, Volume 11, Issue 5, pp 267-277

Land-use changes and sustainable development in mountain areas: a case study in the Spanish Pyrenees

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Land-use changes affecting Mediterranean mountains represent the intensification of use in valley bottoms, accompanied by land-use conflicts, and a generalized abandonment of the hillslopes, which in the past were perfectly integrated in the system of land management. Farmland abandonment, reforestation, diminution of the livestock pressure and substitution of cereal crops by meadows are the most outstanding features of the recent land-use changes. The question is whether the new spatial organisation is in accordance with a longterm policy of sustainable development in mountain areas. The results obtained confirm that farmland abandonment on steep slopes — and the resulting colonization of old fields by a dense shrub cover — and afforestation contribute to control both soil erosion and surface runoff. As a result some of the most important rivers and alluvial fans have recently stabilized their sedimentary structures.