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Assessment of the effects of biophysical and anthropogenic factors on woody plant encroachment in dense and sparse mountain grasslands based on remote sensing data

AuthorsGartzia, Maite ; Alados, Concepción L. ; Pérez-Cabello, Fernando
Keywordswoody plant encroachment
Spanish Pyrenees
remote sensing
mountain grassland
land cover change
land abandonment
Issue Date2014
PublisherSage Publications
CitationProgress in Physical Geography 38(2): 201-217 (2014)
AbstractLand abandonment exacerbated by climate change has led to increased woody plant encroachment of mountain grasslands in many regions of the world. The present study assessed woody plant encroachment below potential tree line in the Central Pyrenees of Spain and the association of this encroachment with changes in land use. Remote sensing data from Landsat-5 Thematic Mapper (TM) from the mid-1980s and mid-2000s were analyzed by supervised classification for identification of land cover types. The transition matrix indicated that shrublands were the most dynamic plant communities. Consequently, 21% of cultivated areas, 19% of dense grasslands, and 24% of sparse grasslands became shrublands during the period analyzed, and 35% of shrublands became forest. Generalized additive mixed models (GAMMs) were used to identify biophysical and anthropogenic factors that were significantly correlated with woody plant encroachment of dense and sparse grasslands. Distance to the nearest woody plant habitat (shrub or forest) was the most strongly correlated factor with woody plant encroachment of both types of grassland. This factor explained 69% and 71% of the variance in models of dense and sparse grasslands, respectively. Besides this factor, anthropogenic factors had larger effects on woody plant encroachment of dense grasslands, regions that were more productive and accessible. However, biophysical and especially topographic factors had slightly greater effects on woody plant encroachment of sparse grasslands, regions that were less productive and accessible. The changes in land cover that we observed indicated that land cover has become more homogeneous. There have been reductions in the variety, functions, and services of grasslands, particularly in areas below the potential tree line that are vulnerable to the development of woody plant habitats. © The Author(s) 2014.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0309133314524429
Identifiersdoi: 10.1177/0309133314524429
issn: 0309-1333
Appears in Collections:(IPE) Artículos
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