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Land-Use and Land Cover Dynamics in South American Temperate Grasslands

Germán Baldi, Universidad de Buenos Aires; CONICET
José M. Paruelo, Universidad de Buenos Aires; CONICET

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Abstract

In the Río de la Plata grasslands (RPG) biogeographical region of South America, agricultural activities have undergone important changes during the last 15–18 years because of technological improvements and new national and international market conditions. We characterized changes in the landscape structure between 1985–1989 and 2002–2004 for eight pilot areas distributed across the main regional environmental gradients. These areas incorporated approximately 35% of the 7.5 × 105 km² of the system. Our approach involved the generation of land-use and land cover maps, the analysis of landscape metrics, and the computation of annual transition probabilities between land cover types. All of the information was summarized in 3383 cells of 8 × 8 km. The area covered by grassland decreased from 67.4 to 61.4% between the study periods. This decrease was associated with an increase in the area of annual crops, mainly soybean, sunflower, wheat, and maize. In some subunits of the RPG, i.e., Flat Inland Pampa, the grassland-to-cropland transition probability was high (pG→C = 3.7 × 10−2), whereas in others, i.e., Flooding Pampa, this transition probability was low (pG→C = 6.7 × 10−3). Our description of the magnitude, direction, and spatial distribution of land-use and land cover changes provides a basis from which to develop spatially explicit scenarios of land cover change.

Key words

campos; fragmentation; grasslands; land use; landscape dynamics, pampas; remote sensing; spatial metrics
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087