Socioeconomic factors influencing land cover changes in rural areas: The case of the Sierra de Albarracín (Spain)

TitleSocioeconomic factors influencing land cover changes in rural areas: The case of the Sierra de Albarracín (Spain)
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsMelendez-Pastor, I., Hernández E. I., Navarro-Pedreño J., & Gómez I.
JournalApplied Geography
KeywordsLand cover change, Mediterranean mountain, Remote sensing, Rural abandonment

Rural abandonment in mountainous regions is a habitual process that occurs in many countries and has socioeconomic and environmental implications. Land cover changes in Mediterranean mountains resulting from farming abandonment have been associated with certain processes of land degradation. This study employed Landsat satellite images for mapping the land cover changes in 1984 and 2007, south of the Iberian Range (region of Sierra de Albarracín, Teruel, Spain). A neural network classification was used to achieve sufficient land cover accuracy. The land cover change analysis revealed an expansion of forestland at the expense of pastureland and abandoned rainfed cropland. These changes were associated with demographic and economic shifts that resulted from a continuous process of rural abandonment. Population reduction has been the natural trend for a century, characterized by massive internal migrations to nearby cities. The dynamic displacement of the population centroid was used to identify the migratory processes in the last century. The primary sector and the associated secondary sector (farming and forestry) were diminished and resulted in a decrease in natural resource exploitation. Economic activity moved towards the tertiary sector, which focuses on rural tourism. The current socioeconomic scenario has unknown future implications for land cover dynamics and their associated ecosystem services values. Thus, monitoring of land cover changes and ecosystem services is required to promote sustainable development in an area that is highly dependent on the conservation of natural resources and ecological services.