Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 186, Issue 4, pp 2215–2229 | Cite as

A half-century analysis of landscape dynamics in southern Québec, Canada

  • Benoît Jobin
  • Claudie Latendresse
  • Alain Baril
  • Charles Maisonneuve
  • Céline Boutin
  • Dominique Côté


We studied landscape dynamics for three time periods (<1950, 1965, and 1997) along a gradient of agricultural intensity from highly intensive agriculture to forested areas in southern Québec. Air photos were analyzed to obtain long-term information on land cover (crop and habitat types) and linear habitats (hedgerows and riparian habitats) and landscape metrics were calculated to quantify changes in habitat configuration. Anthropogenic areas increased in all types of landscapes but mostly occurred in the highly disturbed cash crop dominated landscape. Perennial crops (pasture and hayfields) were largely converted into annual crops (corn and soybean) between 1965 and 1997. The coalescence of annual crop fields resulted in a more homogeneous agricultural landscape. Old fields and forest cover was consistently low and forest fragmentation remained stable through time in the intensive agriculture landscapes. However, forest cover increased and forest fragmentation receded in the forest-dominated landscapes following farm abandonment and the transition of old fields into forests. Tree-dominated hedgerows and riparian habitats increased in areas with intensive agriculture. Observed changes in land cover classes are related to proximate factors, such as surficial deposits and topography. Agriculture intensification occurred in areas highly suitable for agriculture whereas farm abandonment was observed in poor-quality agriculture terrains. Large-scale conversion of perennial crops into annual crops along with continued urbanization exerts strong pressures on residual natural habitats and their inhabiting wildlife. The afforestation process occurring in the more forested landscapes along with the addition of tree-dominated hedgerows and riparian habitats in the agriculture-dominated landscapes should improve landscape ecological value.


Agriculture intensification Fragmentation Land cover Landscape dynamic Québec 



The authors thank Martine Benoit and Marcelle Grenier for their technical and scientific input. Also, the authors thank Luc Bélanger, Rhéaume Courtois, René Lafond, Yvon Mercier, and Isabelle Ringuet for their continued support throughout the project. Funding was provided by Environment Canada and the Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la faune du Québec.


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Copyright information

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Benoît Jobin
    • 1
  • Claudie Latendresse
    • 1
  • Alain Baril
    • 2
  • Charles Maisonneuve
    • 3
  • Céline Boutin
    • 2
  • Dominique Côté
    • 1
  1. 1.Canadian Wildlife ServiceEnvironment CanadaQuébecCanada
  2. 2.National Wildlife Research Centre, Environment CanadaCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada
  3. 3.Ministère des Ressources NaturellesDirection de l’expertise Faune-Forêts-Territoire du Bas-Saint-LaurentRimouskiCanada

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