Assessing Spatial and Temporal Changes of Natural Capital in a Typical Semi-Arid Protected Area Based on an Ecological Footprint Model

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Sustainability (Switzerland)


Exploring spatial and temporal changes in protected areas (PAs) is essential for protecting natural capital and creating a harmonious relationship between humans and nature. This study has assessed land use/land cover (LULC) changes in the Jajrud, a Protected Area with a semi-arid climate zone in Iran (covers an area of 18,814 km2), to assess the sustainability of the use of natural resources using Landsat imagery from 1989 to 2018. Likewise, Ecological Footprint accounts (including the sum of biological, freshwater, energy, and pollution) and changes in the per-capita Ecological Carrying Capacity were investigated to uncover Ecological Deficits. The Ecological Pressure Index was used to explore driving factors of natural capital utilization in each of the various identified zones. Between 1989 and 2018, high-density pastures decreased the most in Jajrud, while built-up land increased the most. Likewise, the Ecological Footprint increased while the Ecological Carrying Capacity decreased, increasing Ecological Deficit quantities. Driving factors for the use of natural capital differs among the various zones due to differing management goals, type of uses, and human activity development. As supply and demand for natural resources were clearly out of an imbalance between the supply and demand of natural resources and exceeded the maximum tolerable limits in Jajrud, a change in production and consumption patterns is necessary. This case study has practical importance for establishing mathematical models to reveal the patterns of LULC, ecological footprint, ecological deficit, and ecological pressure indices in a typical PA in a semi-arid region of Iran. Our approach is advisable for semi-arid PAs in Iran and regions with similar attributes in other countries.

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