Context: Land use legacies of human activities and recent post-abandonment forest expansion have extensively modified numerous forest landscapes throughout the European mountain ranges. Drivers of forest expansion and the effects of changes on ecosystem services are currently debated. Objectives: (i) To compare landscape transition patterns of the Alps and the Apennines (Italy), (ii) to quantify the dominant landscape transitions, and (iii) to measure the influence of climatic, topographic and anthropogenic driving factors. Methods: Land cover changes and landscape pattern modifications were investigated at the regional (over 28 years, Alps and Apennines, Corine Land Cover dataset) and landscape scale (over 58 years, 8 Alpine and 8 Apennine sites, aerial images). The main driving factors of post-abandonment forest landscape dynamics were assessed with a statistical modeling approach. Results: Forest expansion was the dominant landscape transition at both Italian mountain ranges, with an annual overall rate of 0.6%. Forest expansion was more extensive at lower elevations in the Apennines where climate is less limiting and extensive abandoned croplands and pastures were available throughout the study period. Distance from pre-existing forest edges in the Alps and elevation in the Apennines emerged as the most important predictors. Conclusions: Forest expansion is most rapid where areas of recent agricultural abandonment coincide with favorable climatic conditions. Thus the prediction of forest landscape dynamics, in these mountain forests with a long history of cultural use, requires knowledge of how the magnitude and timing of land use changes intersect spatially and temporally with suitable conditions for tree establishment and growth.
Contrasting land use legacy effects on forest landscape dynamics in the Italian Alps and the Apennines / Garbarino, M.; Morresi, D.; Urbinati, C.; Malandra, F.; Motta, R.; Sibona, E. M.; Vitali, A.; Weisberg, P. J.. - In: LANDSCAPE ECOLOGY. - ISSN 0921-2973. - ELETTRONICO. - (2020). [10.1007/s10980-020-01013-9]