Degradation of an arid coastal landscape in relation to land use changes in Southern Tenerife (Canary Islands)

; ; (). Degradation of an arid coastal landscape in relation to land use changes in Southern Tenerife (Canary Islands). Journal of Arid Environments, 70 527-539 . Peer reviewed.

Degradation of an arid coastal landscape in relation to land use changes in Southern Tenerife (Canary Islands)

The results of the first study of land use changes between 1964 and 1992 in Southern Tenerife (Canary Islands) are presented and discussed in relation to the general socio-economic processes and the current nature conservation policy. The analysis of five main land use types with a geographic information system (GIS) revealed that the arid coastal landscape has been dramatically transformed during the past decades due to the increase of mass tourism and the intensification of agriculture, resulting in a large-scale destruction of the coastal scrub, the natural, endemic-rich vegetation. Between 1964 and 1992, the area occupied by irrigated crops increased strongly due to the transition from tomato to banana production. During the same period of time, the amount of abandoned farmland as well as the area used for housing and infrastructure increased markedly, the latter by more than 20 times. In nature reserves, most of the natural vegetation has survived but only in a degraded state, mainly due to recreation activities and illegal waste dumping. In unprotected areas, by contrast, 60% of the natural vegetation was lost between 1964 and 1992, and 86% of the native vegetation of recent lava flows. The results show that the current practice of protecting comparatively small natural areas is not sufficient to stop the massive destruction of natural vegetation. Surprisingly and disturbingly, there is evidence, that a substantial part (40%) of these losses could easily have been avoided by better environmental planning.