Forest recovery since 1860 in a Mediterranean region: drivers and implications for land use and land cover spatial distribution
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Land use and land cover (LULC) change is a major part of environmental change. Understanding its long-term causes is a major issue in landscape ecology.
Our aim was to characterise LULC transitions since 1860 and assess the respective and changing effects of biophysical and socioeconomic drivers on forest, arable land and pasture in 1860, 1958 and 2010, and of biophysical, socioeconomic and distance from pre-existing forest on forest recovery for the two time intervals.
We assessed LULC transitions by superimposing 1860, 1958 and 2010 LULCs using a regular grid of 1 × 1 km points, in a French Mediterranean landscape (195,413 ha). We tested the effects of drivers using logistic regressions, and quantified pure and joint effects by deviance partitioning.
Over the whole period, the three main LULCs were spatially structured according to land accessibility and soil productivity. LULC was driven more by socioeconomic than biophysical drivers in 1860, but the pattern was reversed in 2010. A widespread forest recovery mainly occurred on steeper slopes, far from houses and close to pre-existing forest, due to traditional practice abandonment. Forest recovery was better explained by biophysical than by socioeconomic drivers and was more dependent on distance from pre-existing forest between 1958 and 2010.
Our results showed a shift in drivers of LULC and forest recovery over the last 150 years. Contrary to temperate regions, the set-aside of agricultural practices on difficult land has strengthened the link between biophysical drivers and LULC distribution over the last 150 years.
KeywordsForest transition Historical maps Land cover change Land use change Logistic regression Long-term Northern Mediterranean Transition matrix
The 1860 LULC and lithology maps were provided by the PNRL, and 1958 orthophotographs were provided by the National Institute of Geographic and Forestry Information. This work is part of a PhD Thesis supported by the Région Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur and IRSTEA. The UMR 1137 Forest Ecology and Ecophysiology is supported by a Grant overseen by the French National Research Agency (ANR) as part of the “Investissements d’Avenir” Program (ANR-11-LABX-0002-01, Lab of Excellence ARBRE). The authors thank J. Wu and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive and helpful comments. We also thank P. K. Roche and K. Verheyen for their advice.
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