, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 45-54

Changes of landscape structure in Estonia during the Soviet period

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Abstract

The development of land-use structure during the Soviet period (1940–1991) has been analyzed. The main trends in land-use dynamics have been a decrease in the percentage of agricultural land and an increase in the share of forests. The most important driving factors of such a shift have been the land reforms of 1940, 1949 (collectivization followed by deportations), and 1989; and urbanization and concentration of agricultural production. Changes in land-use structure on the county level reflect well the socio-economic and political changes in Estonian society. An especially significant decrease in agricultural lands took place during the first ten years of collectivization. In coastal areas it has been combined with state political activities. Natural conditions also play an important role, particularly in local changes of land-use structure. The concentration of agricultural production, which is greater in the eastern part of Estonia (Upper Estonia), has caused many environmental problems. Likewise, land amelioration is one of the reasons for environmental disturbances. It has shifted agricultural activities from former arable lands to marginal areas (natural grasslands, wetlands). That is one of the reasons for nutrient cycling disturbances in agricultural landscapes. Despite many disturbances, Estonia has a well- developed network of ecologically compensating areas consisting of nature protection areas, forests, wetlands, and coastal waters. It is important to maintain this ecological network during privatization.