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Biogeomorphological processes in an arid transgressive dunefield as indicators of human impact by urbanization

García-Romero, Leví, Delgado-Fernández, Irene, Hesp, Patrick A., Hernández-Calvento, Luis, Hernández-Cordero, Antonio I., Viera-Pérez, Manuel
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.650 pp. 73-86
anthropogenic activities, buildings, digital elevation models, dunes, lidar, orthophotography, photogrammetry, plant communities, population characteristics, resorts, sediment transport, terraces, tourists, urbanization, vegetation cover, wind speed, Canary Islands, Spain
Urban and tourist developments can have long-lasting impacts on coastal environments and fundamentally alter the evolution of coastal dune systems. This is the case of the Maspalomas dunefield (Gran Canaria, Canary Islands), hosting one of the largest tourist resorts in Spain. The resort was built on top of a sedimentary terrace at 25 m above sea level (El Inglés) in the 1960s, and has subsequently affected local winds and therefore aeolian sediment transport patterns. Buildings on the terrace deflect the winds to the south of the dunefield, where the rate of sediment transport accelerated. A shadow zone appeared to the lee side of the resort with a consequent decrease in wind speed and aeolian sediment transport and an increase in vegetation cover. In this paper, first we characterize the environmental changes around El Inglés terrace in recent decades, and describe the changes in the shadow zone through an analysis of the evolution of sedimentary volumes and vegetation characteristics (density, spatial patterns, and plants communities). A series of historical aerial photographs, recent orthophotos and digital elevation models obtained by digital photogrammetry and LiDAR, as well as fieldwork were used to characterize plant communities and spatial-temporal changes in erosive landforms. Results show changes in the pattern and migration rates of dunes located at the southern edge of the urbanization, as well as the formation of blowouts and large deflation areas, where the vegetation increases in density and number of plant communities. We discuss eco-anthropogenic factors that have produced these environmental changes.