Geological controls of land degradation as detected by remote sensing: a case study in Los Monegros, north-east Spain
The focus of the work reported in this paper is on the way in which land degradation processes affecting semi-arid Mediterranean environments are enhanced by the operation of external (human-induced) factors. A study of landscape change in the Los Monegros area of Aragon, north-east Spain, over the period 1984-1997 has been undertaken in order to evaluate the effects of the extension of irrigation on the expansion of arable agriculture, and to estimate the consequential effects on the landscape. Radiometrically-calibrated Landsat TM data were combined with ground-based observations (soil and geology maps, plus hydrogeological data) with the aim of analysing temporal change in land cover. A combination of remote sensing methods (linear spectral unmixing and principal components analysis) was used to determine the proportions of individual soil types. Change detection techniques were employed to pick out areas at risk from land degradation processes (increased soil erosion and soil salinization) and to explain the ways in which agricultural land-use practices interact with the geological and hydrogeological characteristics of the study area.