Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Award

Fall 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Department of Integrated Science and Technology


Landscape change is an issue of concern within the Maltese Islands; records of landscape change go back at least 450 years, and the rate of change has been particularly accelerated in recent decades. Notwithstanding the importance of this phenomenon, there have been few attempts to trace out patterns of landscape change over time. This study seeks to develop an understanding of landscape change within rural landscapes, over a period of 400 years. A qualitative analytical approach was used with a focus on five case study rural settlements in the North West of Malta. Land surveys and historic documentary sources together with cartography and GIS were utilized in order to map out landscape change. A number of semi-structured interviews with specialists having relevant expertise were also carried out. Results were inputted into Vensim and a system dynamics model was produced, showing the main elements of rural landscape change and linkages between these. The main driving forces identified in this study leading to landscape change were agricultural practices, economic factors and land fragmentation. Rural landscape change is expected to continue to occur in response to changes in the agricultural sector, including governmental initiatives and the emergence of innovative practices. Meantime, pervasive issues such as inheritance laws leading to subdivision of land parcels, remain relevant. The study proposes strategies for better understanding and managing rural landscape change.

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