Historical trajectories in land use pattern and grassland ecosystem services in two {European} alpine landscapes

Land use and spatial patterns which reflect social-ecological legacies control ecosystem service (ES) supply. Yet, temporal changes in ES bundles associated with land use change are little studied. We developed original metrics to quantify synchronous historical variations in spatial patterns of land use and ES supply capacity, and demonstrated their use for two mountain grassland landscapes. Consistent with other European mountains, land use dynamics from the nineteenth century until the mid-twentieth century resulted in increased landscape heterogeneity, followed by homogenisation. In the persistently grassy landscape of Lautaret in France, landscape multifunctionality—the provision of multiple ES—coincided with greatest landscape heterogeneity and within-patch diversity in ecosystem services in the 1950–1970s. In the more complex Austrian landscape, where since the nineteenth century intensive production has concentrated in the valley and steep slopes have been abandoned, grassland landscape-level multifunctionality and spatial heterogeneity across grasslands have decreased. Increasing spatial heterogeneity across grasslands until the 1970s was paralleled at both sites by increasing fine-grained spatial variability for individual ES, but subsequent landscape simplification has promoted coarse-grained ES patterns This novel analysis of landscape-scale turnover highlighted how spatial patterns for individual ES scale to multiple grassland ES, depending on the nature of land use spatial variability. Under current socio-economic trends, sustaining or re-establishing fine-grained landscapes is often not feasible, thus future landscape planning and policies might focus on managing landscape and regional-scale multifunctionality. Also, the trends towards decreasing cultural ES and increasing regulating ES suggest a contradiction with current social demand and regional policies.


Historical trajectories in land use pattern and grassland ecosystem services in two {European} alpine landscapes
Publication Type
Journal Article
Year of Publication
Regional Environmental Change
Date Published
CNRS, Lautaret
Submitted on 21 October 2021