Land use change and ecosystem services provision: a case study of recreation and ecotourism opportunities in southern Chile
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- Nahuelhual, L., Carmona, A., Aguayo, M. et al. Landscape Ecol (2014) 29: 329. doi:10.1007/s10980-013-9958-x
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Land use and cover change (LUCC) is among the most important factors affecting ecosystem services. This study examines the influence of LUCC on recreation and ecotourism opportunities over three decades in southern Chile. An in-depth analysis of the transition matrix was conducted based on Landsat images from 1976, 1985, 1999 and 2007. Main LUCC trajectories were linked to two ecosystem service indicators: (i) Recreation and ecotourism potential, measured in a 0–100 point scale; and (ii) Recreation and ecotourism opportunities, measured in visitors/ha. A total of 900 trajectories occurred in the landscape between 1976 and 2007. The most important trajectories in terms of area, were the recent degradation of old-growth to secondary forest between 1999 and 2007 (23,290 ha; 13.5 % of landscape), and the early clearing of shrublands for agriculture and pasture land between 1976 and 1985 (7,187 ha, 4.2 % of landscape). In turn, the single most influential trajectory on the magnitude of the indicators was early and permanent degradation of old-growth forest to secondary forest. As a result of these landscape changes, recreation and ecotourism opportunities for the entire landscape were reduced from 65,050 persons in 1976 to 25,038 persons in 1985, further declining to 22,346 and 21,608 persons in 1999 and 2007, respectively. This decrease resulted from changes in specific attributes (i.e. emblematic flora and fauna and forest structure) that were affected by forest degradation and fragmentation. These results highlight the substantial impact of LUCC on recreation opportunity decline, which mirrors biodiversity losses in the study area.