Landscape degradation at different spatial scales caused by aridification

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Landscape responses to degradation caused by aridification bring the landscape system into a new equilibrium state. The system transformation may entail irreversible changes to its constituting parameters. This paper analyses the impact of aridification on landscape degradation processes in the sand-covered landscapes of the Hungarian Danube-Tisza Interfluve region at the regional, landscape, and local site scales. Changes in groundwater level (well data), lake surface area (Modified Normalized Difference Water Index) and vegetation cover (Enhanced Vegetation Index) were analysed over time periods of 12–60 years. Significant regional variation in decreasing groundwater levels is observed and limits the regional applicability of this indicator. Applying the lake surface area parameter from remote sensing data demonstrated greater utility, identifying several local lakes in the landscapes which have dried out. Analysis of the vegetation response indicated minor changes over the 2000–2014 time period and did not indicate a landscape system change. Landscape degradation as a result of changes in groundwater, vegetation, land cover and land use is clearly identified exclusively in local lake areas, but at the landscape scale, changes in the water balance are found in phases of system stability and transformation. Thresholds are identified to support policy and management towards landscape degradation neutrality.

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