Land use change dynamics in Euro-mediterranean mountain regions: Driving forces and consequences for the landscape

Yolanda Jiménez-Olivencia, Álvaro Ibáñez-Jiménez, Laura Porcel-Rodríguez, Karl Zimmerer

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36 Scopus citations


The marginalization of mountain regions in Mediterranean Europe since the mid-20th Century has triggered important socioeconomic and environmental changes that are putting the survival of highly regulated and environmentally adapted landscapes in jeopardy. We still have only a limited understanding of the driving forces behind these dynamics of change and their final consequences for the structure and character of the landscape. In general, the transformation of the landscape and its causes have been studied at regional and local level and various syntheses have been made for Europe or the Mediterranean as a whole, focusing above all on changes in the use of farmland. The objective of this paper is to provide a holistic view of the changes that have taken place in the landscape in the Euro-Mediterranean region, focusing in particular on the mountains because of their role as heritage reserves and as sources of environmental services. This research involves a systematic review of the evidence about the dynamics of land use change, its underlying drivers and their effects on the landscape. We analyse 53 case studies from 6 countries situated on the northern shores of the Mediterranean. These studies covered a period of around 40 years and were each performed at a local scale. The results reveal that landscape change is caused above all by the abandonment of farmland and reforestation (in over 90% of cases), and by pressure from urban development in the case of coastal and peri-urban mountain ranges. In addition, the dominant dynamics in each case vary depending on the bioclimatic area in question, to the extent that bioclimate has been shown to be an important explanatory factor behind these dynamics. The underlying boosters of change normally act together and those most commonly cited are economic, demographic and geographic. As regards the impacts on the structure and character of the landscape, the dynamics analysed are manifested first and foremost in degradation processes, in an increase in homogenization, which affects above all the most humid bioclimates, and in the fragmentation of open spaces. This analysis provides a general overview of the causes and consequences of the changes in land use in the mountain regions of Mediterranean Europe and raises questions of interest for policy-making that affects the landscape.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105721
JournalLand Use Policy
StatePublished - Oct 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Forestry
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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