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People and nature in the Fuerteventura Biosphere Reserve (Canary Islands): socio-ecological relationships under climate change

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 March 2017

Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Department of Ecology, 28040-Madrid, Spain
Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Social–Ecological Systems Laboratory, Department of Ecology, 28049-Madrid, Spain
Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Department of Ecology, 28040-Madrid, Spain
Universidad de La Laguna, Institute of Political and Social Sciences, 38205-Tenerife, Spain
Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Department of Ecology, 28040-Madrid, Spain
Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Department of Ecology, 28040-Madrid, Spain
*Correspondence: Prof. María F. Schmitz email:


This paper analyses the interdependence between environment and society in terms of socio-ecological webs, in which human and biophysical systems are linked. A quantitative model, based on canonical correlation analysis applied in Fuerteventura Island (Canary Archipelago), detected indicators of human–landscape relationships and predicted potential shifts based on simulated environmental changes. In the last few decades, the landscape of Fuerteventura Island has changed: natural components and cultural agrarian uses have decreased, while the population has increased due to immigration, mainly from mainland Spain and other European countries. The island shows a transition from a coupled local socio-ecosystem to one based on the interaction between environment and coastal tourism that decouples native inhabitants from the landscape and traditional land-use practices. As vulnerability and adaptation to climate change represent critical sets of potential interactions in Canary Islands, a model and a map of the socio-ecological system under four Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scenarios show rural decoupling through ‘deagrarianization’ and ‘deruralization’, as well as stronger links to the tourism system.

Copyright © Foundation for Environmental Conservation 2017 

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