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Changing human-environment interactions in medium mountains: the Apuseni Mts (Romania) as a case study

Abstract

The study of human-environment relationships in mountain areas is important for both theoretical and practical reasons, as many mountain areas suffer similar problems, such as depopulation, unemployment and natural hazards. Medium mountains constitute a special case within mountains, because they are more populated but less attractive as tourist destinations than high mountains. In this context, the Apuseni Mts (Romania) are considered as a case study. In this paper, we apply GIS-based, quantitative methods to characterize the strength and dynamics of human-environment interactions, taking into consideration some environmental factors (elevation, relative height, slope, river distance, lithology, land cover, natural attractions) as well as historical population and recent tourism data. We found that population density has strong (r 2>0.8) relationships with all relief factors (elevation, relative height, slope, river distance), and that best-fit functions are nonlinear. We outlined the varying demographic scenarios by elevation zones and interpreted the historically switching sign of population change versus elevation relationship. We demonstrated that lithology also has an impact on the spatial distribution of population, although it is not independent from the relief effect. The land cover of the mainly cultural landscape is very strongly correlated with relief parameters (especially slope), which suggests good adaptation. We pointed out the dominance of karst objects in the natural tourism potential of the Apuseni Mts and also explored further components of real tourism (spas, heritage, towns). Finally, we concluded that the environmental settings investigated do in fact constrain the spatial framework of society, but socio-economic changes in history can be explained from the side of society, which conforms to the theory of cultural possibilism.

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Correspondence to Tamás Telbisz.

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http://orcid.org/0000-0003-4471-2889

http://orcid.org/0000-0001-9879-7799

http://orcid.org/0000-0002-3382-7800

http://orcid.org/0000-0003-0337-5580

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Telbisz, T., Imecs, Z., Mari, L. et al. Changing human-environment interactions in medium mountains: the Apuseni Mts (Romania) as a case study. J. Mt. Sci. 13, 1675–1687 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11629-015-3653-0

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Keywords

  • Human-environment relations
  • Apuseni Mountains
  • Geographical information system (GIS)
  • Possibilism
  • Tourism
  • Karst