This research project had as a primary objective the implementation of indicators based on remote sensing data and associated GIS techniques, to report on the conservation status of forests protected within Alpine Natura 2000. Attention was focused on the land cover change indicator and forest dynamics were particularly addressed. The study was then extended to the identification of indicators of forces driving land cover changes. Four study areas where selected from West to East on the Alps, including Natura 2000 sites, belonging to at least two Member States
To implement the land cover change indicator a method based on Landsat data was developed, tested and validated on one study area where a complete dataset was available. The same procedure was then applied to other areas in order to verify its robustness and problems encountered when availability of data is more limited. The proposed methodology is based on a seeded region growing algorithm and it is strictly dependant on a good knowledge of types and location of ongoing vegetation dynamics. However it is useful to identify critical areas to be accurately visited on the ground. As regards driving forces, a methodology based on a binary logistic regression analysis was proposed to verify which variables best explain the increase of woody vegetation observed through remote sensing. Results of the binary logistic regression analysis confirmed that in all the study areas the increase of woody vegetation is driven by socio-economic and environmental variables. Driving forces are strictly related to local conditions and conclusions about a common set of driving forces per similar altitude intervals cannot be generalized.