Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 544–554 | Cite as

Decline of traditional landscape in a protected area of the southwestern Alps: The fate of enclosed pasture patches in the land mosaic shift

  • Matteo GarbarinoEmail author
  • Emanuele Sibona
  • Emanuele Lingua
  • Renzo Motta


Traditional landscape elements such as pasture patches enclosed in a forest matrix are progressively disappearing throughout the European Alps. We assessed the land mosaic shift of a protected area located in the western Italian Alps. In particular, the dynamics of pasture patches were studied at both landscape and stand level. Land-cover mapping through object-oriented analysis of historical aerial photographs was used to assess land-cover changes between 1954 and 2000. Spatial statistics were used to quantify landscape patterns, and field samplings within pasture patches were used to explore tree regeneration structure and composition. Our results showed a significant increase in the number of pasture patches caused by their fragmentation following forest expansion. The total surface area of pasture patches decreased by 43% and their core area decreased by 94%. The encroachment of trees on less accessible areas of the pasture patches caused a reduction of patch shape at landscape scale. The gap filling process started 40–50 years ago and began with an early invasion of light demanding species like sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus L.) and common ash (Fraxinus excelsior L.), followed by European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) and secondarily silver fir (Abies alba Mill.). Traditional land-use and population decline in the Pesio Valley led to a reduction in ecotone areas. A transition to a more homogeneous landscape is expected in the next decades. Given the cultural and productive nature of these mountain meadow-pasture communities, extensive livestock grazing systems could be used to manage their future conservation.


Landscape structure Secondary succession Historical ecology Pesio Valley Traditional land-use 


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Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matteo Garbarino
    • 1
    Email author
  • Emanuele Sibona
    • 2
  • Emanuele Lingua
    • 3
  • Renzo Motta
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences (D3A)Università Politecnica delle MarcheBiancheAncona, Italy
  2. 2.Department of Agriculture, Forest and Food Sciences (DISAFA)University of TorinoGrugliasco, TOItaly
  3. 3.Department of Land and Agro-Forestry Systems (TESAF)University of Padova, AgripolisLegnaro, PDItaly

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