Environmental Management

, Volume 56, Issue 1, pp 110–126 | Cite as

Land Change in Eastern Mediterranean Wood-Pasture Landscapes: The Case of Deciduous Oak Woodlands in Lesvos (Greece)

  • Harald SchaichEmail author
  • Thanasis Kizos
  • Stefan Schneider
  • Tobias Plieninger


In Mediterranean Europe, wood-pasture landscapes with oak woodlands as emblematic ecosystems are undergoing rapid land-use change, which may threaten their legacy as hotspots of biodiversity, ecosystem services, and cultural heritage. The objective of this study was to quantify land cover changes and transitions as well as the dynamics of oak woodland patterns and densities over 50 years in two municipalities at the center and edges of Quercus macrolepis distribution in Northern Lesvos (Greece). We used aerial photographs from 1960 and WorldView-2 satellite images from 2010 to process land cover maps and metrics, and to calculate oak canopy cover with a point-grid sampling approach. Spatiotemporal dynamics of land cover change were generally high—especially between oak woodlands and grass- and shrub-lands, resulting in a more heterogeneous and fragmented landscape in 2010. Surprisingly, oak woodland area remained stable with marginal losses in one study site and gains in the other one. Oak canopy cover increased by 8 and 9 %. Spatial hotspots of change were mountainous and peripheral phrygana areas with expanding oak stands, as well as river valleys and near urban areas with expanding olive groves and grass- and shrublands in former complex cultivation and oak stands. We conclude that the parallel processes of abandonment of crop cultivation and intensification of livestock grazing have been less detrimental to oak woodlands than supposed. To ensure long-term persistence of oak woodlands in the face of ongoing rural depopulation and land-use intensification, environmental and agricultural policies should better address their specificities as anthropogenic habitats.


Agroforestry Biodiversity conservation Cultural landscapes Fragmentation Landscape metrics Land-use change 



This research was supported by IKYDA, an integrated action program between the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Greek State Scholarship Foundation (I.K.Y). Additional funding was provided through grants 613520 (Project AGFORWARD) and 603447 (Project HERCULES) from the European Commission (7th Framework Program). We are very grateful to Sotiros Koukoulas (University of the Aegean) for providing access to the 1960 aerial images, to Konstantina Lagkou for supporting accuracy assessment in the field, and to Emily Kilham for improving the language of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Harald Schaich
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Thanasis Kizos
    • 3
  • Stefan Schneider
    • 2
    • 4
  • Tobias Plieninger
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Environmental Planning, Landscape Ecology and Nature ConservationEnvironmental Protection Agency, City of FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  2. 2.Chair for Landscape Management, Institute of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Environment and Natural ResourcesUniversity of FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  3. 3.Department of GeographyUniversity of the AegeanMytileneGreece
  4. 4.Chair for Silviculture, Institute of Forest Sciences, Faculty of Environment and Natural ResourcesUniversity of FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  5. 5.Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource ManagementUniversity of CopenhagenFrederiksberg CDenmark

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