Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 17, Issue 8, pp 2209–2222 | Cite as

Nineteenth-century land-use legacies affect contemporary land abandonment in the Carpathians

  • Catalina MunteanuEmail author
  • Tobias Kuemmerle
  • Martin Boltiziar
  • Juraj Lieskovský
  • Matej Mojses
  • Dominik Kaim
  • Éva Konkoly-Gyuró
  • Peter Mackovčin
  • Daniel Műller
  • Katarzyna Ostapowicz
  • Volker C. Radeloff
Original Article


Historical land use may shape landscapes for centuries into the future, but it remains unclear how much land-use legacies affect contemporary land use. Knowing for how long and how strongly land-use legacies affect agricultural systems is important for contemporary land-use planning and conservation. We assessed the effect of nineteenth-century agricultural legacies for contemporary agricultural abandonment by integrating historic maps and satellite imagery in the Carpathian region. We modeled the choice of agricultural land, and the legacies of Habsburg and Socialist regimes, while controlling for agro-ecological, accessibility and sociopolitical variation. Farming during the Habsburg era was concentrated in agro-ecologically suitable areas, but socialist agricultural expansion occurred mostly in less suitable areas, leading to subsequent abandonment. In addition, our results showed that historic land use affected abandonment even 100 years later. Although legacies diminished over time, their effects were amplified when political transformations occurred, likely due to land tenure systems, land owner attitudes, cultural values and differences in land improvement over time. Taken together, land-use legacies and shifts in political systems can constrain current land management and possible future land-use options, suggesting that contemporary land-use decisions can affect future land use for decades and even centuries.


Land-use legacies Historic land use Agricultural abandonment Carpathians 



We are most grateful to all partners and student collaborators who helped digitize the historic maps. We thank three reviewers for their constructive feedback and for helping us improve the manuscript. We gratefully acknowledge support by the Land-Cover and Land-Use Change Program of the National Aeronautic Space Administration (NASA), the NASA Earth System Science Fellowship Program (NESSF), the European Commission (Projects No. 265104 VOLANTE and 603447 HERCULES), the Einstein Foundation, Berlin (Germany), the Fulbright Scholar Program, the VEGA Grant Agency (Project No. 2/0171/16) and by Projects No. 1/0934/17 and 2/0117/13.

Supplementary material

10113_2016_1097_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (778 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 778 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catalina Munteanu
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Tobias Kuemmerle
    • 3
    • 4
  • Martin Boltiziar
    • 5
    • 6
    • 7
  • Juraj Lieskovský
    • 5
    • 8
  • Matej Mojses
    • 5
  • Dominik Kaim
    • 9
  • Éva Konkoly-Gyuró
    • 10
  • Peter Mackovčin
    • 11
  • Daniel Műller
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Katarzyna Ostapowicz
    • 9
  • Volker C. Radeloff
    • 1
  1. 1.SILVIS Lab, Department of Forest and Wildlife EcologyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Transition Economies (IAMO)Halle (Saale)Germany
  3. 3.Geography DepartmentHumboldt-University BerlinBerlinGermany
  4. 4.Integrative Research Institute on Transformations in Human Environment Systems (IRI THESys)Humboldt-University BerlinBerlinGermany
  5. 5.Institute of Landscape Ecology of the Slovak Academy of Sciences BratislavaNitraSlovakia
  6. 6.Department of Geography and Regional Development, Faculty of Natural SciencesConstantine the Philosopher University in NitraNitraSlovak Republic
  7. 7.Department of Geography, Faculty of Natural SciencesJ. E. Purkyne University in Usti nad LabemUsti nad LabemCzech Republic
  8. 8.Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSLBirmensdorfSwitzerland
  9. 9.Institute of Geography and Spatial ManagementJagiellonian UniversityKrakówPoland
  10. 10.Institute of Forest Management and Rural DevelopmentUniversity of West HungarySopronHungary
  11. 11.Department of Geography, Faculty of SciencePalacky UniversityOlomoucCzech Republic

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