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Understanding the long-term dynamics of forest transition: From deforestation to afforestation in a Mediterranean landscape (Catalonia, 1868–2005)
- Cervera, Teresa, Pino, Joan, Marull, Joan, Padró, Roc, Tello, Enric
- Land use policy 2019 v.80 pp. 318-331
- afforestation, age structure, cropland, deforestation, ecological restoration, forest inventory, forests, geographic information systems, land use, landscapes, livestock breeding, pastures, sustainable forestry, wildfires, wood, woodlands, Mediterranean region
- As other Mediterranean areas, Catalonia has experienced a forest transition following rural abandonment during the last sixty years. The GIS reconstruction of three land-use maps of 1868, 1956 and 2005 shows how forests have encroached former cropland and pasture land from the 1950s onwards, after a previous wave of deforestation. Forest inventories reveal the overpressure exerted on woodlands up to the 1950s, and their poor ecological status in terms of age structure, diversity and maturity. They are prone to wildfires, which in turn force a harvest of salvaged wood by a sudden forestry activity that entails a vicious circle: the lack of a proper forest management increases wildfires, and leads to this sort of ‘spasmodic forestry’. To overcome this situation, a sustainable forestry, combined with farming and extensive livestock breeding are needed as a means to perform an active ecological restoration. Historical knowledge can help in this task, by discovering the previous dynamics of current woodlands and providing a guidance to differentiate the scarce oldest forests from the ones that are younger as a result of the overuse exerted up to mid-20th century, and from many others that have regrown since the 1950s in abandoned steep lands.