Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 24, Issue 13, pp 3185–3199 | Cite as

Anthropogenic drivers of plant diversity: perspective on land use change in a dynamic cultural landscape

  • V. Amici
  • S. Landi
  • F. Frascaroli
  • D. Rocchini
  • E. Santi
  • A. Chiarucci
Original Paper


Changes in land use are among the forces shaping Earth’s surface. In many industrialized areas, the loss of a traditional state of dynamic equilibrium between traditional management and natural dynamics is followed by abandonment to regeneration processes. This can reduce ecological complexity at the landscape scale and negatively affect biodiversity patterns. In this study, we investigate the relation between land use change and plant species diversity in the network of protected areas (PAs) of the province of Siena (Tuscany, Central Italy). This is an area characterized by long-lasting human activities and highly renowned cultural landscapes. We used remotely sensed, mapping and ground based plant compositional data, to investigate the present pattern of plant species diversity, the changes of landscape structure and changes in forest habitats. Most of the plant diversity present in this network of PAs is due to broad scale gradients due to ecological diversity but also to human management. Most of the area is currently covered by forests and analysis of a historical sequence of spatial data reveals that this is largely a consequence of the abandonment of traditional management during the last decades. Finally, focusing on forest succession as a consequence of land use change, we demonstrate that species richness significantly declines with increasing age of forest stands. Taken together, our results confirm that the recent trends of rural abandonment are leading to homogenization and biodiversity loss in traditional landscapes of Mediterranean Europe. We discuss implications for policy, and suggest that PA management in cultural and historical landscapes should pay increasing attention traditional anthropic practices.


Biodiversity assessment Change detection Land use Mediterranean Plant species richness Traditional landscapes 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • V. Amici
    • 1
  • S. Landi
    • 2
  • F. Frascaroli
    • 2
    • 3
  • D. Rocchini
    • 4
  • E. Santi
    • 1
  • A. Chiarucci
    • 2
  1. 1.BIOCONNET, Biodiversity and Conservation Network, Department of Life SciencesUniversity of SienaSienaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Biological, Geological and Environmental SciencesUniversity of BolognaBolognaItaly
  3. 3.Institue of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental StudiesUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  4. 4.GIS and Remote Sensing Unit, Department of Biodiversity and Molecular Ecology, Fondazione Edmund MachResearch and Innovation CentreSan Michele all’AdigeItaly

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