Globally, farmland abandonment has been a major phenomenon for eco-environmental and social landscape changes in the mountain regions. Farmland abandonment led to endangering the capacity of mountain ecosystems as well as variety of eco-environmental processes that play a pivotal role in regional as well local level eco-environment security. This research aims to (i) assess the spatiotemporal degradation of abandoned farmlands, (ii) identify the major causes of farmland degradation, and (iii) analyze the eco-environmental risks triggered or exacerbated by the degradation of abandoned farmlands. We conducted an inventory of the spatiotemporal distribution of abandoned farmlands and their degradation status with Google earth images and by modeling and interpreting low-height remote sensing images taken by an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Geomorphic damages were mapped at the scale of individual abandoned farms. A multivariate regression statistical (MRS) model was used to identify the major causes of degradation. This research revealed that out of the total surveyed farmlands, 92% were already completely irreversibly damaged. The damages started with the disruption of terraces and bulging processes that occurred within the year after abandonment. This degradation induced diverse hazardous processes, such as landslides, debris flows, rock falls, the formation of gullies, soil erosion, and the development of sinkholes, which increase the negative effects of on both land resources and plant succession. Farmland abandonment does not automatically lead to plant colonization because geomorphic damage is intensified prior to colonization. Therefore, land management is required for plant colonization as well as other efforts to reduce degradation induced eco-environmental risk. This study thus could help land planners and environmentalists in the development of suitable guidelines (pre- or post-abandonment) plans, programmes, and legislation to effectively address the problem of abandoned farmland.
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