Landscape Ecology

, Volume 19, Issue 5, pp 543–559

Variations in landscape patterns and vegetation cover between 1957 and 1994 in a semiarid Mediterranean ecosystem


  • C.L. Alodos
    • Pyrenean Institute of Ecology Avda
  • Y. Pueyo
    • Pyrenean Institute of Ecology Avda
  • O. Barrantes
    • Dpt. Agricultura y Economía AgrariaUniversidad de Zaragoza
  • J. Escós
    • Infraestructura and Ecología. Avda
  • L. Giner
    • Pyrenean Institute of Ecology Avda
  • A.B. Robles
    • Estación Experimental del Zaidín

DOI: 10.1023/B:LAND.0000036149.96664.9a

Cite this article as:
Alodos, C., Pueyo, Y., Barrantes, O. et al. Landscape Ecol (2004) 19: 543. doi:10.1023/B:LAND.0000036149.96664.9a


The aim of this study was to analyze the main processes that determine changes in landscape patterns and vegetation cover from 1957-1994 to develop a model for land cover dynamics. Land cover and landscape patterns were assessed and compared using aerial photographs taken in 1957, 1985, and 1994. Over this period, tall grass steppe and arid garrigues increased by 6% and 4%, respectively, while crop fields decreased by 15% and tall arid brush remained the same. Over the same period, tall grass steppes and arid garrigues became less fragmented.

Changes in land use were triggered by socioeconomic forces, which were constrained by the underlying structure of the physical landscape. The best preserved vegetation (tall arid brushes) was concentrated at higher elevations, with a pronounced slope, not oriented towards the sea, and in volcanic substrate. Communities tended to be better preserved further away from towns and at lower house densities. Tall grass steppe was present on more gradual sea-oriented slope and in calcareous substrate, and increased at higher elevations, although not far from the town but away from high anthropogenic influence. Previous studies have revealed that traditional land uses of this landscape, particularly grazing, favoured the transition from tall arid brush to tall grass steppe. In this study, we analyzed to what extent the underlying structure of the physical landscape imposes limitations to the vulnerability to human activity of the main vegetation types. According to the data on the probability of vegetation transition over the 37-year period, the shift from tall arid brush to tall grass steppe appeared to be favoured by gradual slopes. Tall arid brush recovered from either arid garrigues or tall grass steppes at steeper slopes. Thus, steep terrain had a favourable effect on the formation of brushwood and more gradual terrain favoured tall grass steppe. The prevalent trends were confirmed by a projection of a transition matrix over 100 years.

FragmentationLand-useMediterraneanSemi-arid ecosystemVegetation cover transition, Cabo de Gata-Nijar Natural Park, Spain

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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004