Temperate grasslands are considered the most endangered terrestrial ecosystem worldwide; the existent areas play a key role in biodiversity conservation. The Aguapey Valuable Grassland Area (VGA), one of the most well-preserved temperate grassland areas within Argentina, is currently threatened by the anthropogenic expansion of exotic tree plantations. Little is known about the impacts of afforestation over temperate grassland landscape structures; therefore, the aim of this study is to characterize Aguapey VGA landscape structural changes between 1999 and 2020 based on remotely sensed data. This involves the generation of land cover maps for four annual periods based on unsupervised classification of Landsat 5 TM and 8 OLI images, the estimation of landscape metrics, and the transition analysis between land cover types and annual periods. The area covered by temperate grassland is shown to have decreased by almost 22% over the 20 year-period studied, due to the expansion of tree plantation cover. The afforestation process took place mainly between 1999 and 2007 in the northern region of the Aguapey VGA, which led first to grassland perforation and subsequently to grassland attrition; however, Aguapey’s cultural tradition of cattle ranching could have partially inhibited the expansion of exotic trees over the final years of the study. The evidence of grassland loss and fragmentation within the Aguapey VGA should be considered as an early warning to promote the development of sustainable land use policies, mainly focused towards the Aguapey VGA’s southern region where temperate grassland remains the predominant land cover type.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We would like to thank Sebasti?n Cirignoli who provided key land cover in-formation. We also thank three anonymous reviewers for their support and comments.
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.
- temperate grassland
- land cover change
- landscape dynamics
- Landscape dynamics
- Land cover change
- Temperate grassland