Land ownership and land use structure against natural environment in the upper Wiar river catchment – changes over the last 200 years

Date: 2011-05-10 - 2014-05-10

Supervisor: Jerzy Solon

Contractors: Andrzej Affek

Orderer institution: Narodowe Centrum Nauki
No.: N N 305 058940

(project promotorski)

Mountainous areas around the world have recently undergone heavy changes mainly due to land abandonment caused by socioeconomic reasons. Although landscape transformation of vast areas in Central and Eastern Europe behind the Iron Curtain had different, strictly political reasons, it has also resulted in land abandonment. The upper Wiar river catchment (Sanok-Turka Mountains in the Carpathians) is the study area chosen for detailed analysis. It covers around 230 km2, with the altitude ranging from 290 up to 670 m above sea level. Till the Second World War it was a highly populated rural hilly area, considered as an ethnic borderland inhabited by both Poles and Ukrainians. In the late 1940s Ukrainians were forcibly displaced due to the political decisions taken by the Polish communist government inspired by the Soviet Union regime.

The aim of this study is to explore landscape structure and the diversity of patterns of change over the last 230 years (covering preindustrial, industrial and postmodern type of landscape) by means of cartographic analysis. The study was carried out in Historical GIS approach using 8 topographic map series with mean scale around 1:25 000. Exploratory spatial analysis based on landscape metrics, Markow matrices and statistical analysis resulted in identification of patterns of change and main driving forces that led to landscape transformation.

The main results of the study showed that the diversity of landscape structure decreased significantly after land abandonment. According to the patch-matrix model of landscape structure, matrix has changed from farmland to forest in the study area. The general conclusion regarding the cartographic long-term landscape analysis is that older maps and maps of smaller scale simplify landscape structure. Landscape metrics derived from historical maps depend not only on the real structure of the landscape, but on the properties of the map themselves. Hence, size, shape and edge metrics are subject to systematic errors.

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