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Soil fertility evolution and landscape dynamics in a Mediterranean area: a case study in the Sant Llorenç Natural Park (Barcelona, NE Spain)

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The cartography of land covers was used to study fertility and soil evolution in a mountainous Mediterranean area during the anthropocene period ( Crutzen P J 2002 Geology of mankind Nature 415 23). The aim was to determine changes in fertility as agricultural lands were abandoned in the 14 000 hectare area that constitutes Sant Llorenç del Munt Natural Park in a pre-coastal Catalan mountain range (north-eastern Iberian Peninsula). The analysis of land covers using vegetation maps, orthorectified images and aerial photography has allowed us to differentiate six vegetation groups: holm-oak wood, pine grove, oak wood, scrub, active agricultural fields and abandoned agricultural fields. The anthropic covers over the past 100 years were subdivided into five categories: active fields and those abandoned over four time periods. Study variables include field shape (concave, convex, flat), orientation (north, south) and slope (ranging from 12º to 24º). The parameters used for the physical-chemical soil analysis included organic material, phosphorous and potassium; fertility was classified based on groups, types and classes. The results indicate that even when the visual appearance of certain landscapes is similar, the edaphic characteristics may be very different. Changes induced by human disturbance share this phenomenon. Therefore, land management should be considered globally, taking into account vegetation, soils and water as interdependent factors, since it is their interaction that produces landscape and most affects its evolution over time.

Keywords: Mediterranean areas; abandoned and active agricultural fields; human disturbance; landscape dynamic; last century scale processes; soil alterations

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: GRAMP: Research Group in Mountain Areas and Landscape, Departament de Geografia, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra, Spain, Email:

Publication date: June 1, 2009


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