Transformation of a Rural Landscape in the Eastern Pyrenees Between 1953 and 2000

In the mid-20th century, the southern parts of the Madres and Mont Coronat massif (Eastern Pyrenees, France) were characterized by a Mediterranean landscape shaped by human activity. Long-term use of these mountains for crops, livestock, and forestry led to an increase in grassland areas at the expense of forest. However, socioeconomic transformation (abandonment of agriculture and a decrease in the rural population) in recent decades has caused profound changes in this massif. Interpretation of aerial photographs (1953, 1969, 1988, and 2000) made it possible to detect and analyze the changes produced in the study area (6787 ha) during this period. In 1953 most of the massif landscape consisted of grasslands (38%) and open forests (18%), with some areas of dense forest (15%). By 2000, dense forest cover had doubled in size (31%), and grassland had decreased considerably (by 73% of the initial area). Since 1953, the study area has become more homogeneous, with a few local exceptions. The results of this study suggest that socioeconomic factors might be the main cause of landscape transformations in this period of approximately 50 years. ​
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