Mediterranean land systems: Representing diversity and intensity of complex land systems in a dynamic region

Ziga Malek, P.H. Verburg

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In the Mediterranean region, land systems have been shaped gradually through centuries. They provide services to a large and growing population in a region that is among the most vulnerable to future global change. The spatial extent and distribution of Mediterranean land systems is, however, unknown. In this paper, we present a new, expert-based classification of Mediterranean land systems, representing landscapes as integrated social-ecological systems. We combined data on land cover, management intensity and livestock available on the European and global scale in a geographic information system based approach. We put special emphasis on agro-silvo-pastoral mosaic systems: multifunctional Mediterranean landscapes hosting different human activities that are not represented in common land cover maps. By analyzing location conditions of the identified land systems, we demonstrated the significance of both bio-physical (precipitation, soil) and socio-economic (population density, market influence) factors driving the occurrence of these systems. Agro-silvo-pastoral mosaic systems were estimated to cover 23.3% of the Mediterranean ecoregion and exhibited to a certain extent similar characteristics as forest and cropland systems. A reanalysis using data that are available with global coverage indicated that the choice of datasets leads to significant uncertainties in the extent and spatial pattern of these systems. The resulting land systems typology can be used to prioritize and protect landscapes of high cultural and environmental significance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-116
Number of pages14
JournalLandscape and Urban Planning
Early online date24 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017


The research in this paper has been supported by the European Research Council under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme project LUC4C (Grant No. 603542), OPERAs (Grant No. 308393) and ERC grant GLOLAND (no. 311819). We would like to thank Ilse Geijzendorffer, Ana Paula Garcia-Nieto, Marianela Fader, Wolfgang Cramer and Jetse Stoorvogel for their help. This paper contributes to the objectives of the Global Land Project (

FundersFunder number
European Union's Seventh Framework Programme project LUC4C308393, 603542, LUC4C
European Research Council311819


    • Mediterranean
    • Land system
    • Land cover
    • Land change
    • Land use
    • Land use intensity
    • Agricultural mosaics


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