Land use - State and impacts (Spain)

SOER 2010 Common environmental theme (Deprecated)
This page was archived on 21 Mar 2015 with reason: A new version has been published
SOER Common environmental theme from Spain
Land Land
Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 11 May 2020

The Corine Land Cover (CLC) 2006 survey records a total land area for Spain of 50 672 957 ha. Of this, 50.1 % is classified as agricultural area; 47.1 % as forest, natural vegetation and open spaces; 2 % as artificial surface and the remaining 0.9 % as wetlands and water bodies.

Share Land Cover 2000-2006


These figures are very similar to those recorded by the CLC2000 and reveal a slight decrease in forest area and open spaces and a increase in artificial surfaces.

In terms of size, the greatest change in land cover between 2000 and 2006 occurred in Spain's artificial surfaces, which expanded by 15.4 % to occupy 2.0 % of the country's total area. The second-biggest increase was recorded in water bodies (water courses, water bodies, coastal lagoons and estuaries), which grew by 1.5 %. As the graph below shows, changes in other types of land use were comparatively insignificant.

Changes Land Cover 2000-2006

In 2006, urban fabric accounted for the largest proportion of artificial surface, followed by industrial or commercial areas and mineral extraction sites.

Share Artificial Surface 2006


However, the greatest growth between 2000 and 2006 occurred in road and rail networks and associated land, largely because of improvements to Spain's road network and enlargement of its high-speed rail network. The increases in the area covered by construction sites, sport and leisure facilities and airports also stand out.

Changes Artificial Surfaces 2000-2006

 'Changes in Land Cover in Spain. Implications for Sustainability', published in 2006 by the Spanish Observatory for Sustainability, compares 1990 with 2000 to provide a detailed analysis of this process. The majority (70 %) of artificial surfaces created between 1990 and 2000 were originally agricultural areas. The large amount of agricultural land available (usually close to well-established urban areas) and the profit made by owners when changing land use were two of the causes that contributed to this phenomenon.

As mentioned earlier, in 2006, artificial surfaces accounted for 2.0 % of Spain's total area. Their presence on the country's coastal strip is a phenomenon of particular concern— almost 45 % of Spain's population live in coastal municipalities that account for just 7 % of the country's territory.

In 2006, artificial surfaces made up 22.7 % of land area within the first kilometre of Spain's shoreline, while in 2000 they constituted 21 %. In 2006, urban fabric accounted for 17 % of land within one kilometre of the shore, port areas for 1.6 %, and industrial or commercial areas for 1.5 %.

In recent years, growth in the tourism and residential sectors has congested the shoreline on some parts of Spain's coast, particularly around the Mediterranean, and development has extended more than ten km inland. In 2006, artificial surfaces made up 9.4 % of this strip (8.5 % in 2000), while urban fabric accounted for 6.5 %.






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The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.

Filed under: SOER2010, land
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