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Historical evolution and land-use changes in natural broadleaved forests in the north-west Iberian Peninsula

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The forest landscape in the north-west Iberian Peninsula is the result of thousands of years of human intervention. The objective of this study was to describe the evolution and historical background of the forests to establish measures for their conservation and recovery. The main focus was on natural broadleaved forests, which have been intensively exploited ever since Roman times. These forests have been converted to agricultural land, felled for the naval, metallurgical and railway industries, sold along with Church lands, suffered forest fires, and been substituted by fast growing species. All of these activities have led to a reduction in the forest area. Today, broadleaved forests cover small and generally rugged areas, and remain where the terrain often prevents other types of land use. Remains of these forests can be found in flat areas close to villages, but the understorey vegetation and regeneration is limited owing to human activities. Therefore, their present situation raises the problem of their silvicultural and economic transformation. On a positive note, the area covered by these forests has increased recently owing to better awareness about their conservation and to the recognition of habitats of interest by the European Union, as part of the Nature 2000 Network.
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Keywords: Broadleaved; forestland; land use; north-west Iberian Peninsula

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Agroforestry Engineering, University of Santiago de Compostela, Lugo, Spain

Publication date: August 1, 2008

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