Mediterranean islands contain heterogeneous landscapes, resulting from the complex interactions between natural and anthropogenic processes, and have significant ecological and conservation importance. They are vulnerable systems to global change and the monitoring of changes, induced by the interacting environmental drivers, is of particular importance for applying a sustainable management regime. The aim of this study was to detect and analyze the landscape dynamics and changes in landscape composition over a 30-year period on the Ionian Islands of Western Greece. State-of-the-art object-oriented image analysis on freely available remote sensing data such as Landsat images was employed achieving final mapping products with high spatial and thematic accuracy (over than 85%), and a transferable classification scheme. The main drivers of environmental change are tourism and associated activities, wildfires and livestock breeding which act in different ways and intensities within and between the islands. The repopulation of those islands, after a period of significant depopulation from the 1940s to the 1980s, and the boom of tourism since the mid-1970s prevented further land abandonment and the recultivation of abandoned land which indicates that tourism and agriculture can be complementary rather than competing economic sectors. Despite the significant increase of tourism, a general trend was observed towards increasing cover of high-density vegetation formations, such as shrublands and forests. At the same time, wildfires, which are in some cases associated with livestock breeding, continue to be an important vegetation degradation factor preventing further ecosystem recovery on the study islands.
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