Beyond urban-rural dichotomy: Exploring socioeconomic and land-use processes of change in Spain (1991-2011)

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© 2014 Elsevier Ltd. In the last decades, the process of land-use intensification linked to human activity has changed considerably causing important modifications in the traditional dichotomized urban-rural relationships. Given their more complex dynamics, alternative methodologies for analysing the spatial consequences of changes are required. The present study investigates the variables shaping the urban-rural relationship in Spain over the last 20 years using a synthesizing methodology based on statistical and cartographic techniques that take into account a large number of variables and cases. The study was carried out at the level of local municipalities (nearly 8000 spatial units), fitting 36 socioeconomic and geographical indicators into a multivariate statistical framework. Indicators were selected to describe processes of intensification, extensification, or abandonment implying both land-use changes and important transformations in the local socioeconomic structure. Multivariate analysis identified seven processes contributing to the change in the urban-rural relationship in Spain: urban intensification and sprawl, coastalization, naturbanization, expansion of irrigated crop systems, livestock and pasture expansion, afforestation and reforestation, and depopulation. An in-depth understanding of recent spatial dynamics in Mediterranean countries may inform sustainable land management with the final aim to mitigate or re-balance the impact of these processes in land degradation or in an excessive human pressure along the coastal rim between other undesirable consequences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-81
JournalApplied Geography
Issue number55
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014


  • Land-use intensification and extensification
  • Mediterranean Europe
  • Multivariate statistics
  • Spain
  • Urban expansion
  • Urban-rural relationships


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