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From Forest Dynamics to Wetland Siltation in Mountainous Landscapes: A RS-Based Framework for enhancing Erosion Control

Abstract: Human activities have caused a significant change in the function and services that ecosystems have provided to society since historical times. In mountainous landscapes, the regulation of services such as water quality or erosion control has been impacted by land use and land cover (LULC) changes, especially the loss and fragmentation of forest patches. In this work, we develop a Remote Sensing (RS)-based modelling approach to identify areas for the implementation of nature-based solutions (NBS) (i.e., natural forest conservation and restoration) that allow reducing the vulnerability of aquatic ecosystems to siltation in mountainous regions. We used time series Landsat 5TM, 7ETM+, 8OLI and Sentinel 2A/2B MSI (S2) imagery to map forest dynamics and wetland distribution in Picos de Europa National Park (Cantabrian Mountains, northern Spain). We fed RS-based models with detailed in situ information based on photo-interpretation and fieldwork completed from 2017 to 2021. We estimated a forest cover increase rate of 2 ha/year comparing current and past LULC maps against external validation data. We applied this forest gain to a scenario generator model to derive a 30-year future LULC map that defines the potential forest extent for the study area in 2049. We then modelled the distribution of wetlands to identify the areas with the greatest potential for moisture accumulation. We used an S2 mosaic and topography-derived data such as the slope and topographic wetness index (TWI), which indicate terrain water accumulation. Overall accuracy scores reached values of 86% for LULC classification and 61% for wetland mapping. At the same time, we obtained the potential erosion using the NetMap software to identify potential sediment production, transport and deposition areas. Finally, forest dynamics, wetland distribution and potential erosion were combined in a multi-criteria analysis aiming to reduce the amount of sediment reaching selected wetlands. We achieved this by identifying the most suitable locations for the conservation and restoration of natural forests on slopes and in riparian areas, which may reduce the risk of soil erosion and maximise sediment filtering, respectively. The results show a network pattern for forest management that would allow for controlling erosion effects across space and time at three levels: one, by reducing the load that originates upslope in the absence of forest cover; two, by intersecting runoff at watercourses related to sediment transport; and three, by a lack of former barriers, by trapping erosion near to the receiving wetland systems, main river axes and contributing streams. In conclusion, the proposed methodology, which could be transferred to other mountain regions, allows to optimise investment for erosion prevention and wetland conservation by using only very specific areas of the landscape for habitat management (e.g., for NBS implementation).

 Fuente: Remote Sensing, 2022, 14, 1864

 Publisher: MDPI

 Publication date: 13/04/2022

 No. of pages: 22

 Publication type: Article

 DOI: 10.3390/rs14081864

 ISSN: 2072-4292

 Spanish project: PID2019-107085RB-I00