Impact of three decades of urban growth on soil resources in Elche (Alicante, Spain) .


This article analyses the impact of soil sealing associated with three decades of urban growth in the Mediterranean coastal municipality of Elche (Alicante, Spain) on local soil resources. Geographical Information System (GIS) and remote sensing (RS) techniques were used to obtain and analyse different types of thematic information relating to urban growth and soil resources (soil class, land use capability, and physiographic classes). Map algebra techniques were employed to assess patterns of land occupation by urban growth and to compare maps of urban areas obtained from satellite imagery in 1978, 1992, 2001 and 2005 with thematic maps showing ancillary soil resources. Three different patterns of land occupation were identified in Elche: concentric growth outwards from the city of Elche (1978-1992), dispersed urban growth onto highly productive agricultural soils (1992- 2001), and coastal urbanization (2001-2005). Soils with high land capacity for agricultural use were the ones most severely affected by soil sealing as a result of urban growth. Land use planning should therefore adopt measures to minimize the impact of soil sealing in agricultural areas in orsure the complete environmental functionality of the soil and guarantee food production.
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