Mediterranean pines are subject to continuous change under the influence of natural and human factors. Remotely sensed data provide a means to characterize these changes over large areas. In this study we used a time series of Landsat imagery to capture 25 years (1984–2009) of change in the pine-dominated forests of the Central Range in Spain. Object-based image analysis methods were used to identify landscape-level changes in the area and the distribution of forests. We also propose that in the absence of disturbance, biomass accrual is occurring (or depletion in cases where removal is evident) and may be related to changes to the carbon stock; we describe the detected spectral changes in terms of biomass changes as the carbon stocking process. The primary inputs for the identification of changes in the area and distribution of pine stands were Landsat bands 3, 4 and 5 and the Tasseled Cap Angle (TCA) – a metric derived from the greenness and brightness components of the Tasseled Cap Transformation (TCT). In the identification of carbon stocking processes the temporal derivative of the TCA, the Process Indicator (PI), was used to inform on the rate and directionality of the change present. Our results show that the total area of pine forest has increased by 40%, from 1211 km2 to 1698 km2, during this period, with a variable rate of change. The distribution of pine-dominated forest has changed as well: there is an area of 765 km2 permanently covered with pines and 945 km2 found to be temporarily occupied. Following the logic of carbon stocking processes, our findings show that at the end of the analysis period, 20% of the potential pine area is increasing its carbon stock and 40% of this area is experiencing a decrease.
This work was done under the project, ‘Estructura, dinámica y selvicultura para la conservación y el uso sostenible de los bosques en el Sistema Central’ (VA-096- A05), with funding from Consejería de Educación, Junta de Castilla y León, Plan Regional I+D+I. Field data were provided by Consejería de Medio Ambiente y Ordenación Territorial de Castilla y León.