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Impact of land cover change on ecosystem service supply in mountain systems: a case study in the Cantabrian Mountains (NW of Spain)

García-Llamas, Paula, Geijzendorffer, Ilse R., García-Nieto, Ana P., Calvo, Leonor, Suárez-Seoane, Susana, Cramer, Wolfgang
Regional environmental change 2019 v.19 no.2 pp. 529-542
abandoned land, case studies, databases, ecosystem services, land cover, land use, landscapes, mountains, traditional farming, vegetation, Spain
Land abandonment and the loss of traditional farming practices are thought to control land cover dynamics, and hence the ecosystem service supply in traditionally managed mountain landscapes. We evaluate the impact of land cover changes in Cantabrian Mountains (NW Spain), over 1990–2012, on the potential supply capacity of ecosystem services (regulating, provisioning, and cultural) at both regional and local scales. We also analyze trends in the use of ecosystem services at the local scale. Land cover changes were estimated from CORINE Land Cover database. Patterns of potential ecosystem service supply were assessed by applying an ecosystem service supply capacity matrix and trends in their actual use by using field data. Main trajectories of land cover change encompassed woody vegetation spread in semi-natural open systems and agricultural expansion in the most suitable areas. The capacity of landscape to provide ecosystem services improved during 1990–2012 at both scales. We detected trade-offs between the potential supply of ecosystem services associated to natural systems and those linked to traditional land uses, at both regional and local scales. Changes in the potential supply of ecosystem services matched trends in ecosystem service use. This study could help develop future scenarios to address upcoming challenges in ecosystem service supply.