, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 299-313
Date: 07 Oct 2009

Forest cover changes in the Prignitz region (NE Germany) between 1790 and 1960 in relation to soils and other driving forces

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Decadal to centennial land-cover changes are important drivers of many environmental issues, including biodiversity, biogeochemical cycles and, especially, the global carbon balance. In general, changes are well documented over only a few decades. Studies of land-cover changes and its drivers over centuries are rare. Therefore, the main objectives of this study are (1) to trace the development of the actual pattern of forest-open land over 170 years, and (2) to associate land-cover classes with site conditions (soils) as well as with other driving forces during three periods (1790–1838, 1838–1870, and 1870–1960). For these purposes, we used a combined approach of GIS-techniques and historical reconstructions from archives. The shifts of percentages for established forests, afforestation, clearings and open land on different soils were checked using a chi square test. From the archives, we obtained information on demographic, political/institutional and economic/technological factors, which are assumed to be drivers for past land-cover changes. Percentages of most land-cover classes hardly differed between the periods. However, established forests remained mainly on sandy soils and, to a large extend, afforestation was realised on sandy soils. Clearings reached high percentages on fluvial sands and organic sediments in the early period. A complex of demographic, political/institutional and economic/technological factors also had a considerable impact on land use/cover change in the Prignitz region. Thus, in addition to the strong association of land-cover classes with soils, our study demonstrated that other driving forces, i.e. political and economic factors, played an important role in the full understanding of land use from the past to the present.