Unraveling Landscape Complexity: Land Use/Land Cover Changes and Landscape Pattern Dynamics (1954–2008) in Contrasting Peri-Urban and Agro-Forest Regions of Northern Italy

D. Smiraglia*, T. Ceccarelli, S. Bajocco, L. Perini, L. Salvati

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This study implements an exploratory data analysis of landscape metrics and a change detection analysis of land use and population density to assess landscape dynamics (1954–2008) in two physiographic zones (plain and hilly-mountain area) of Emilia Romagna, northern Italy. The two areas are characterized by different landscape types: a mixed urban–rural landscape dominated by arable land and peri-urban settlements in the plain and a traditional agro-forest landscape in the hilly-mountain area with deciduous and conifer forests, scrublands, meadows, and crop mosaic. Urbanization and, to a lesser extent, agricultural intensification were identified as the processes underlying landscape change in the plain. Land abandonment determining natural forestation and re-forestation driven by man was identified as the process of change most representative of the hilly-mountain area. Trends in landscape metrics indicate a shift toward more fragmented and convoluted patterns in both areas. Number of patches, the interspersion and juxtaposition index, and the large patch index are the metrics discriminating the two areas in terms of landscape patterns in 1954. In 2008, mean patch size, edge density, interspersion and juxtaposition index, and mean Euclidean nearest neighbor distance were the metrics with the most different spatial patterns in the two areas. The exploratory data analysis of landscape metrics contributed to link changes over time in both landscape composition and configuration providing a comprehensive picture of landscape transformations in a wealthy European region. Evidence from this study are hoped to inform sustainable land management designed for homogeneous landscape units in similar socioeconomic contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)916-932
JournalEnvironmental Management
Volume56
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Keywords

  • Change trajectories
  • Land abandonment
  • Landscape metrics
  • Multivariate analysis
  • Urbanization

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