Original Article

Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 1-12

First online:

Land use change in Southern Romania after the collapse of socialism

  • Tobias KuemmerleAffiliated withGeography Department, Geomatics Lab, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin Email author 
  • , Daniel MüllerAffiliated withGeography Department, Geomatics Lab, Humboldt-Universität zu BerlinLeibniz Institute for Agricultural Development in Central and Eastern Europe (IAMO)
  • , Patrick GriffithsAffiliated withGeography Department, Geomatics Lab, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
  • , Marioara RusuAffiliated withInstitute of Agricultural Economics, Romanian Academy

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The drastic socio-economic and political changes that occurred after the breakdown of socialism in Eastern Europe triggered widespread land use change, including cropland abandonment and forest cover changes. Yet the rates and spatial patterns of post-socialist land use change remain largely unclear. We used Landsat TM/ETM+ images to classify land cover maps and assess landscape pattern changes from 1990 to 2005 in Argeş County, Southern Romania. Cropland abandonment was the most widespread change (21.1% abandonment rate), likely due to declining returns from farming, tenure insecurity, and demographic developments during transition. Forest cover and forest fragmentation remained remarkably stable during transition, despite widespread ownership transfers. Cropland abandonment provides opportunities for increased carbon sequestration, but threatens cultural landscapes and biodiversity. Continued monitoring is important for assessing whether abandoned croplands will eventually reforest or be put back into production and to better understand the consequences of post-socialist land use change for ecosystems and biodiversity.


Cropland abandonment Forest cover change Post-socialist transition Central and Eastern Europe Remote sensing