Special Issue "Landscape Transformation and Changes in Land Use Intensity"

A special issue of Land (ISSN 2073-445X).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 March 2021) | Viewed by 18059

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Andreu Bonet-Jornet
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Ecology, University of Alicante, Alicante, Spain
Interests: landscape ecology; biodiversity conservation; restoration ecology
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Prof. Dr. Carlos T. López De Pablo
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Ecology, Biodiversity, Ecology and Evolution, Complutense University of Madrid, 28040 Madrid, Spain
Interests: landscape ecology; landscape planning; ecological cartography
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Prof. Dr. César Agustin López Santiago
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Research group of Social Ecological Systems Laboratory, Ecology Department, Autonomous University of Madrid, 28049 Madrid, Spain
Interests: landscape and ecosystem services; landscape perception; participatory processes in landscape management; ecological restoration

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Worldwide changes in agricultural lands, forests or urban and peri-urban areas have accelerated during the last 50 years at all spatial scales. Land use intensity changes drive important transformations on landscape shape and function, challenging sustainability of management practices. Deforestation/afforestation, agricultural intensification versus land use and rural abandonment, pasture encroaching, alien species introduction and invasions, new irrigation schemes, and others have affected the viability of traditional cultural landscapes and fostering biodiversity declines. To mitigate social and ecological degradation of landscapes, it is important to deeply understand the key elements driving land use intensification, extensification and abandonment processes.

This Special Issue on “Landscape Transformation and Changes in Land Use Intensity” aims to look for answers on how land use intensification, abandonment or extensification processes affect the delivery of ecosystem services and habitat support for biodiversity, presenting a relevant opportunity for a wide international and multidisciplinary community, including landscape ecologists, social scientist or geographers, to share their knowledge. Progresses in understanding local to global patterns, drivers, and socioecological implications of these changes are welcome. We also seek integrative studies regarding sustainable, innovative, and adaptive responses to reverse harmful ecological and social effects due to land use intensity changes, including ecological restoration experiences and socioecological bases for designing tomorrow landscapes.

Prof. Dr. Andreu Bonet-Jornet
Prof. Dr. Carlos T. López De Pablo
Prof. Dr. César Agustin López Santiago
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Land is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • land use intensification
  • ecosystem services
  • ecological restoration
  • land abandonment
  • rural abandonment
  • landscape multifunctionality
  • social–ecological resilience
  • future landscapes
  • cultural landscapes

Published Papers (12 papers)

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Research

Article
Assessing Land Dynamics and Sustainability on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua: A Method Based on Comprehensive Land Units
Land 2021, 10(5), 467; https://doi.org/10.3390/land10050467 - 30 Apr 2021
Viewed by 1024
Abstract
In the coastal zones, varied uses converge, some of them of priority interest. In this study, an integrated method for the planning and management of the territory is proposed, which includes the evaluation of sustainability. A total of 15 different land-use classes were [...] Read more.
In the coastal zones, varied uses converge, some of them of priority interest. In this study, an integrated method for the planning and management of the territory is proposed, which includes the evaluation of sustainability. A total of 15 different land-use classes were estimated in 80 sampling units distributed regularly along the Pacific coastline of Nicaragua and classified to determine land management sectors. For each of the identified sectors, the ecological, economic, social, and productive dimensions were evaluated independently, handling a total of 53 variables from different databases, by means of ordination multivariate factor analysis. Subsequently, the four dimensions were integrated into a model and the results were evaluated based on their similarity with theoretical development scenarios, assessed by discriminant analysis. Among these, the scenarios considered as a goal for sustainability in the studied area were present. On the Pacific coast of Nicaragua, productive and economic activities are currently prioritized, without having an integrated planning scheme for the entire territory, which includes nature conservation. The main contribution has been to provide a method for evaluating the land in an integrative and multidimensional way, while at the same time qualifying the different territorial sectors from a sustainable development. Even under a context of relative scarcity of information for some relevant aspects, the dimension-values assessment is largely solved by ordering the territorial sectors with a multivariate strategy, so that they are classified in relative and not absolute terms, which allows the strategy to be very useful for countries lacking some databases and cartography. This holistic and comprehensive vision of the entire territory facilitates social participation and contributes to decision-making aimed at advancing toward sustainability. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Landscape Transformation and Changes in Land Use Intensity)
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Article
Rural Roads Are Paving the Way for Land-Use Intensification in the Uplands of Laos
Land 2021, 10(3), 330; https://doi.org/10.3390/land10030330 - 23 Mar 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1481
Abstract
Road expansion has played a prominent role in the agrarian transition that marked the integration of swidden-based farming systems into the market economy in Southeast Asia. Rural roads deeply altered the landscape and livelihood structures by allowing the penetration of boom crops such [...] Read more.
Road expansion has played a prominent role in the agrarian transition that marked the integration of swidden-based farming systems into the market economy in Southeast Asia. Rural roads deeply altered the landscape and livelihood structures by allowing the penetration of boom crops such as hybrid maize in remote territories. In this article, we investigate the impact of rural road developments on livelihoods in northern Laos through a longitudinal study conducted over a period of 15 years in a forest frontier. We studied adaptive management strategies of local stakeholders through the combination of individual surveys, focus group discussions, participatory mapping and remote-sensing approaches. The study revealed the short-term benefits of the maize feeder roads on poverty alleviation and rural development, but also the negative long-term effects on agroecosystem health and agricultural productivity related to unsustainable land use. Lessons learnt about the mechanisms of agricultural intensification helped understanding the constraints faced by external interventions promoting sustainable land management practices. When negotiated by local communities for their own interest, roads may provide livelihood-enhancing opportunities through access to external resources, rather than undermining them. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Landscape Transformation and Changes in Land Use Intensity)
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Article
Forest Area Changes in Cinque Terre National Park in the Last 80 Years. Consequences on Landslides and Forest Fire Risks
Land 2021, 10(3), 293; https://doi.org/10.3390/land10030293 - 12 Mar 2021
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 817
Abstract
Cinque Terre, one of the most important Italian cultural landscapes, has not been spared from depopulation and agricultural abandonment processes, that involved many rural areas in Europe, as a consequence of socio-economic transformations that occurred after WWII. Depopulation of rural areas, especially in [...] Read more.
Cinque Terre, one of the most important Italian cultural landscapes, has not been spared from depopulation and agricultural abandonment processes, that involved many rural areas in Europe, as a consequence of socio-economic transformations that occurred after WWII. Depopulation of rural areas, especially in mountains or in terraced areas, caused significant environmental consequences, such as the decrease of biodiversity, the landscape homogenization, the increase of hydrogeological and forest fires risks. Cinque Terre National Park (5TNP) was established in 1999, and, differently from other Italian National Parks, not just for protecting natural habitats, but mainly to preserve, restore and valorize the historical terraced landscape. Moreover, the area is a UNESCO cultural landscape site and it is partly protected by three Sites of Community Importance. The research intended to investigate the transformations that have affected forested areas inside the 5TNP in the period 1936–2018, also highlighting the connections with hydrogeological and forest fires risks, as a support for the Park planning strategies and the conservation of the UNESCO site. Results highlighted that 37% of the current forests are the consequence of dry stones terraces abandonment that occurred in the twentieth century, with negative effects on the stability of steep slopes, hydrogeological risk, forest fires and on the conservation of a unique cultural landscape. This confirms the current national trend showing no deforestation occurring, but rather a continuous increase of forests on abandoned land. While 5TNP policies and actions are effectively aimed at pursuing an equilibrium between cultivated areas and forests, the Sites of Community Importance located inside the Park mainly focuses on the conservation of “natural habitats”, even if the current vegetation is also the result of secondary successions on former cultivated land. The research highlighted the need to valorize “cultural values” in forest planning as well as the importance of forest history for an accurate planning of forest resources in protected areas. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Landscape Transformation and Changes in Land Use Intensity)
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Article
The Potential to Save Agrestal Plant Species in an Intensively Managed Agricultural Landscape through Organic Farming—A Case Study from Northern Germany
Land 2021, 10(2), 219; https://doi.org/10.3390/land10020219 - 22 Feb 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 877
Abstract
Intensive agriculture is among the main drivers of diversity decline worldwide. In Central Europe, pressures related with agriculture include habitat loss due to the consolidation of farming units, pesticide and fertilizer use, and shortened crop rotations. In recent decades, this development has resulted [...] Read more.
Intensive agriculture is among the main drivers of diversity decline worldwide. In Central Europe, pressures related with agriculture include habitat loss due to the consolidation of farming units, pesticide and fertilizer use, and shortened crop rotations. In recent decades, this development has resulted in a severe decline of agrestal plant communities. Organic farming has been suggested as a biodiversity friendly way of farming, as it strongly restricts the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and relies on longer crop rotations. It may thus help in saving agrestal plant communities in the future. In this study, we assessed the long-term effects of three types of arable field management (conventional farming, organic farming, and bio-dynamic farming) on three farms in the federal state of Schleswig-Holstein, Northern Germany. We collected data on above-ground plant communities and seed banks and analyzed them with regards to the impact of the farming system and their position in the field using nonmetric multi-dimensional scaling (NMDS) and linear mixed effects models (LME) combined with ANOVA and Tukey contrast tests. Plants in organically or bio-dynamically managed fields differed in their composition and traits from those occurring in conventionally managed fields, i.e., they showed a preference for higher temperatures and were dominated by insect-pollinated species. While conventional farming had negative effects on vegetation and the seed bank, organic and bio-dynamic farms had neutral or slightly positive effects on both. This highlights the potential of the latter two to conserve species even in an intensively managed landscape. In addition, this may halt or even reverse the decrease in arthropod, bird, and mammal species, since agrestal plants constitute an important component of food-webs in agricultural landscapes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Landscape Transformation and Changes in Land Use Intensity)
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Article
Hedgerows and Enclosures in Rural Areas: Traditional vs. Modern Land Use in Mediterranean Mountains
Land 2021, 10(1), 57; https://doi.org/10.3390/land10010057 - 10 Jan 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1034
Abstract
The present paper highlights the importance of hedgerows and enclosures in the mountains of Central Spain. Now, these landscapes have suffered profound variations in terms of agroforestry practices, especially in the Mediterranean mountains where the characteristic multifunctional has largely been lost. The article [...] Read more.
The present paper highlights the importance of hedgerows and enclosures in the mountains of Central Spain. Now, these landscapes have suffered profound variations in terms of agroforestry practices, especially in the Mediterranean mountains where the characteristic multifunctional has largely been lost. The article analyzes land uses changes, dynamics, and their morphological features between the first half of the 20th Century (1956) and the second decade of the present time (2019). The paper was divided into three sections. First, the identification of land uses using orthophotograph and aerial photograph; after that the info was checked with fieldwork. Eleven categories were identified according to the dominant use and land use changes and size of land parcels were taken into consideration. Second, the configuration and the information collected through the type and intensity of change in land uses made it possible to recognise and quantify their distribution and trend between these two dates. Also, the kernel density algorithm available in the Arcgis 10.5 software was used to obtain density and changes in land parcels. Finally, an overview is given of the main role that this agroforestry plays due to the social, ecological, and economic benefits that they provide for allowing sustainable development. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Landscape Transformation and Changes in Land Use Intensity)
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Article
Is There an Equivalence between Measures of Landscape Structural and Functional Connectivity for Plants in Conservation Assessments of the Cerrado?
Land 2020, 9(11), 459; https://doi.org/10.3390/land9110459 - 18 Nov 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1245
Abstract
Landscape connectivity can be assessed based on the physical connection (structural connectivity) or the maintenance of flow among habitats depending on the species (functional connectivity). The lack of empirical data on the dispersal capacity of species can lead to the use of simple [...] Read more.
Landscape connectivity can be assessed based on the physical connection (structural connectivity) or the maintenance of flow among habitats depending on the species (functional connectivity). The lack of empirical data on the dispersal capacity of species can lead to the use of simple structural measures. Comparisons between these approaches can improve decision-making processes for the conservation or restoration of habitats in fragmented landscapes, such as the Cerrado biome. This study aimed to understand the correspondence between the measures of landscape structural and functional connectivity for Cerrado plants. Three landscapes with cerradão patches in a pasture matrix were selected for the application of these metrics based on the functional connectivity of four profiles of plant dispersal capacity. The results showed divergent interpretations between the measures of landscape structural and functional connectivity, indicating that the assessment of biodiversity conservation and landscape connectivity is dependent on the set of metrics chosen. Structurally, the studied landscapes had the same number of cerradão patches but varied in optimal resource availability, isolation, heterogeneity, and aggregation. Functional connectivity was low for all profiles (based on the integral index of connectivity—IIC) and null for species with a low dispersal capacity (based on the connectance index—CONNECT), indicating that species with a medium- to long-distance dispersal capacity may be less affected by the history of losses and fragmentation of the Cerrado in the pasture matrix. The functional connectivity metrics used allowed a more robust analysis and, apparently, better reflected reality, but the lack of empirical data on dispersal capacity and the difficulty in choosing an indicator organism can limit their use in the management and planning of conservation and restoration areas. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Landscape Transformation and Changes in Land Use Intensity)
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Article
The Textuality of the Modernist Rural Landscape: Belgrade Agricultural Combine (PKB) as a Driver of the Urban Development of Third Belgrade
Land 2020, 9(11), 452; https://doi.org/10.3390/land9110452 - 17 Nov 2020
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Abstract
This paper considers the landscape as both a material and an ideological representation and starts from the assumption that spatial patterns arise as a result of the ideological imperative of the process that forms the landscape. The research takes on a historical-interpretative approach [...] Read more.
This paper considers the landscape as both a material and an ideological representation and starts from the assumption that spatial patterns arise as a result of the ideological imperative of the process that forms the landscape. The research takes on a historical-interpretative approach in the domain of architectural and urban studies, enabling in-depth qualitative exploration of the textuality and layering of the modernist rural landscape through a case study of the PKB Agricultural Combine as a driver of the urban development of Third Belgrade, the spatial framework of the left riverbank of the Danube in the administrative area of Belgrade. The research was conducted by chronologically interpreting primary sources, notably planning documents of different levels and scope, as well as studies, programs and development models for the urbanization of this territory. The research aims to decode the impact of socialist agrarian policy on the land-use in the wider metropolitan area of Belgrade, as well as the impact of the agricultural combine as a spatial, social, economic, environmental and political entity on the urban development process at different spatial levels. The research has identified four periods in the development of Third Belgrade: (1) Production of the Modernist Rural Landscape, (2) Establishment of the Self-Management Planning Framework, (3) Humanization of Environment, and (4) Post-socialist Transition and the Collapse of the Agricultural Combine. The paper demonstrates not only that environmental transformation cannot be separated from social transformation but also that they are in constant interaction and that their synergy has had a profound impact on the development of the PKB Agricultural Combine system in socialist conditions. The textuality of the modernist rural landscape confirms that an object-oriented approach is not enough to explore and interpret the landscape, but rather, we should look at the way it is socially produced through decoding the planning, institutional and policy frameworks determining the urban development of a territory. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Landscape Transformation and Changes in Land Use Intensity)
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Article
Assessment of Changes in a Viewshed in the Western Carpathians Landscape as a Result of Reforestation
Land 2020, 9(11), 430; https://doi.org/10.3390/land9110430 - 04 Nov 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1107
Abstract
A viewshed analysis is of great importance in mountainous areas characterized by high landscape values. The aim of this research was to determine the impact of reforestation occurring on former pasturelands on changes in the viewshed, and to quantify changes in the surface [...] Read more.
A viewshed analysis is of great importance in mountainous areas characterized by high landscape values. The aim of this research was to determine the impact of reforestation occurring on former pasturelands on changes in the viewshed, and to quantify changes in the surface of glades. We combine a horizontal and a vertical approach to landscape analysis. The changes in non-forest areas and the viewshed from viewpoints located in glades were calculated using historical cartographic materials and a more recent Digital Elevation Model and Digital Surface Model. An analysis was conducted using a Visibility tool in ArcGIS. The non-forest areas decreased in the period 1848–2015. The viewshed in the majority of viewpoints also decreased in the period 1848–2015. In the majority of cases, the maximal viewsheds were calculated in 1879/1885 and 1933 (43.8% of the analyzed cases), whereas the minimal ones were calculated in 2015 (almost 57.5% of analyzed cases). Changes in the viewshed range from 0.2 to 23.5 km2 with half the cases analyzed being no more than 1.4 km2. The results indicate that forest succession on abandoned glades does not always cause a decline in the viewshed. Deforestation in neighboring areas may be another factor that has an influence on the decline. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Landscape Transformation and Changes in Land Use Intensity)
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Article
Social Valuation of Mediterranean Cultural Landscapes: Exploring Landscape Preferences and Ecosystem Services Perceptions through a Visual Approach
Land 2020, 9(10), 390; https://doi.org/10.3390/land9100390 - 14 Oct 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1447
Abstract
Mediterranean cultural landscapes have been recognized as multifunctional landscapes that are currently threatened by two opposing trends: rural abandonment and agricultural intensification. Uncovering people’s perceptions of different landscape configurations, and how inhabitants value the contributions of nature to human wellbeing, is essential to [...] Read more.
Mediterranean cultural landscapes have been recognized as multifunctional landscapes that are currently threatened by two opposing trends: rural abandonment and agricultural intensification. Uncovering people’s perceptions of different landscape configurations, and how inhabitants value the contributions of nature to human wellbeing, is essential to understanding current landscape trends. In this study, we analyze the social perception of the cultural landscapes of Sierra Morena (Andalusia, Spain) based on 389 face-to-face visual questionnaires in an attempt to understand individuals’ landscape preferences, the reasons behind those preferences and how those landscapes are perceived as suppliers of ecosystem services by different groups of stakeholders. Four groups of stakeholders were identified that differed in how they perceive and value the cultural landscape. An urban-related group was characterized by their preferences for pine plantations and “green” landscapes, guided mostly by aesthetic criteria. A livestock-related group showed a clear preference for wood–pasture landscapes (dehesas) due to their ability to supply multiple ecosystem services. An environmentally aware group showed preferences for dehesas and Mediterranean forests, mainly guided by ecological criteria. Finally, an olive-related group showed a clear preference for olive grove landscapes as key for the regional economy and their cultural identity. Overall, the local inhabitants of Sierra Morena perceived a higher supply of ecosystem services in moderately disturbed landscapes, such as dehesas and mosaic landscapes, than in highly disturbed ones, such as conventional olive groves and pine plantations, or in less used landscapes, such as the Mediterranean forest. Understanding the differences in valuation/demand for ecosystem services among groups of stakeholders, characterized by their landscape preferences, provides important information with which to identify potential trade-offs and conflicts, thereby providing insights into the improvement of landscape planning and decision making. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Landscape Transformation and Changes in Land Use Intensity)
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Article
Does Social Capital Help to Reduce Farmland Abandonment? Evidence from Big Survey Data in Rural China
Land 2020, 9(10), 360; https://doi.org/10.3390/land9100360 - 29 Sep 2020
Cited by 14 | Viewed by 1016
Abstract
At a time when COVID-19 is sweeping the world, farmland abandonment is obviously not conducive to solving food security problems. Since the formal institutions of local government in China have not been effective in the reduction of farmland abandonment, this study aims to [...] Read more.
At a time when COVID-19 is sweeping the world, farmland abandonment is obviously not conducive to solving food security problems. Since the formal institutions of local government in China have not been effective in the reduction of farmland abandonment, this study aims to explore whether informal institutions can help mitigate this problem. Based on big survey data from 8031 farmer households in 27 provinces in mainland China, this study uses an econometric model to investigate the quantitative impact of social capital on farmland abandonment, and to analyze the channels through which that impact manifests itself. The empirical results point to the following conclusions: (i) Social capital, as a key informal institution, can help reduce farmland abandonment. More specifically, after controlling for other variables, for every unit increase in social capital, the proportion of farmland abandonment can be predicted to drop by 7.17 percentage points. (ii) Both off-farm employment and farmland rent are channels for the impact of social capital on farmland abandonment. However, social capital’s effect on increasing farmland abandonment via the promotion of off-farm employment is small when compared with its effect on reducing farmland abandonment via the promotion of farmland rent. This study’s conclusions may help generate new ideas for reducing farmland abandonment. At the same time, the study may provide a sound, empirical basis for policies aimed at reducing the negative impact of COVID-19 on food security while also revitalizing rural areas. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Landscape Transformation and Changes in Land Use Intensity)
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Article
Unraveling Misunderstandings about Desertification: The Paradoxical Case of the Tabernas-Sorbas Basin in Southeast Spain
Land 2020, 9(8), 269; https://doi.org/10.3390/land9080269 - 11 Aug 2020
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 3666
Abstract
From its origins, the concept of desertification has been controversial. The prevailing confusion between two desertification visions, one that considers it as the expansion of deserts and another that emphasizes its anthropogenic component, has been transferred to society. Here we illustrate misunderstandings about [...] Read more.
From its origins, the concept of desertification has been controversial. The prevailing confusion between two desertification visions, one that considers it as the expansion of deserts and another that emphasizes its anthropogenic component, has been transferred to society. Here we illustrate misunderstandings about desertification using a very illustrative case from the Tabernas-Sorbas Basin (Almeria, Spain), where striking badlands that are often used as an image of desertification coexist with an intensive olive agriculture that is irreversibly deteriorating the only oasis in continental Europe (Los Molinos spring). The olive tree is a traditional Mediterranean dryland crop and until the 1950s only about 200 ha were irrigated in this area. However, the profitability of the crop has caused irrigation to expand to 4400 ha in the last two decades. The process of intensification has been reinforced giving way to super-intensive irrigation, which involves going from 210 to 1550 trees/ha, which in a few years already occupies more than 1500 ha. The effects on the water balance of the aquifer feeding these crops have been severe, and the flow of the Los Molinos spring has gone from more than 40 L/s for the period 1970–2000 to the current 7.28 L/s. Unraveling the mechanisms of land degradation and its main drivers are the first step to propose management actions to achieve a more sustainable use of resources and to combat desertification. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Landscape Transformation and Changes in Land Use Intensity)
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Article
Soil Properties and Biomass Attributes in a Former Gravel Mine Area after Two Decades of Forest Restoration
Land 2020, 9(6), 209; https://doi.org/10.3390/land9060209 - 26 Jun 2020
Cited by 12 | Viewed by 2263
Abstract
The ongoing global deforestation resulting from anthropogenic activities such as unsustainable agriculture and surface mining threatens biodiversity and decreases both soil carbon and above-ground biomass stocks. In this study, we assessed soil properties and below- and above-ground biomass attributes in a restored former [...] Read more.
The ongoing global deforestation resulting from anthropogenic activities such as unsustainable agriculture and surface mining threatens biodiversity and decreases both soil carbon and above-ground biomass stocks. In this study, we assessed soil properties and below- and above-ground biomass attributes in a restored former gravel mine area in Ghana two decades after active restoration with potted plants and fresh topsoil. We compared conditions to four alternative land-use types (unrestored abandoned gravel mine, arable land, semi-natural forest, and natural forest) representing pre- and post-disturbance as well as natural reference states. We hypothesized that soil properties and related levels of below- and above-ground biomass in the restored area share similarities with the natural reference systems and thereby are indicative of a trajectory towards successful restoration. Eight replicated subareas in each land-use type were assessed for a set of soil parameters as well as below- and above-ground biomass attributes. The soil properties characteristic for the restored area differed significantly from pre-restoration stages, such as the abandoned gravel site, but did not differ significantly from properties in the natural forest (except for bulk density and base saturation). Above-ground biomass was lower in the restored area in comparison to the reference natural forests, while differences were not significant for below-ground biomass. Silt and effective cation exchange capacity were closely related to above-ground biomass, while below-ground biomass was related to soil organic carbon, bulk density, and potassium concentration in soils. Our results suggest that major steps towards successful restoration can be accomplished within a relatively short period, without the wholesale application of topsoil. Improving soil conditions is a vital tool for the successful development of extensive vegetation cover after surface mining, which also affects carbon sequestration by both above- and below-ground biomass. We emphasize that the use of reference systems provides critical information for the monitoring of ecosystem development towards an expected future state of the restored area. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Landscape Transformation and Changes in Land Use Intensity)
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