Publication: Identifying socio-ecological networks in rural-urban gradients: Diagnosis of a changing cultural landscape
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Socio-ecological systems maintain reciprocal interactions between biophysical and socioeconomic structures. As a result of these interactions key essential services for society emerge. Urban expansion is a direct driver of land change and cause serious shifts in socio-ecological relationships and the associated lifestyles. The framework of rural-urban gradients has proved to be a powerful tool for ecological research about urban influences on ecosystems and on sociological issues related to social welfare. However, to date there has not been an attempt to achieve a classification of municipalities in rural-urban gradients based on socio-ecological interactions. In this paper, we developed a methodological approach that allows identifying and classifying a set of socio-ecological network configurations in the Region of Madrid, a highly dynamic cultural landscape considered one of the European hotspots in urban development. According to their socio-ecological links, the integrated model detects four groups of municipalities, ordered along a rural-urban gradient, characterized by their degree of biophysical and socioeconomic coupling and different indicators of landscape structure and social welfare. We propose the developed model as a useful tool to improve environmental management schemes and land planning from a socio-ecological perspective, especially in territories subject to intense urban transformations and loss of rurality.