European Journal of Forest Research

, Volume 126, Issue 1, pp 77–90 | Cite as

Forest cover and pattern changes in the Carpathians over the last decades

  • J. KozakEmail author
  • C. Estreguil
  • P. Vogt
Original Paper


This study aims at developing a satellite-based methodology for the implementation of two Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe indicators for the European Alpine Bio-geographic region, and their changes over time: (1) area of forest cover and (2) forest spatial pattern. The northern Carpathians were selected as a study area due to the documented recent increase of forest cover. Changes of forest cover were quantified using Landsat images for the years 1987 and 2000. Single-date forest–non-forest maps were derived by image segmentation and supervised classification, including the use of ancillary data (CORINE Land Cover and a digital elevation model). These maps were an input for the post-classification change detection. The forest spatial pattern maps with four classes (core, patch, edge and perforated forest) were derived with morphological image processing. A simple method to mask uncertainty areas on forest maps and related products was also developed. The accuracy of the resulting forest–non-forest map was assessed with orthophotos and amounts to 93.9%. Uncertainty areas, for which change assessment was judged more difficult and less reliable, were not considered for assessing forest cover change. The annual forest cover change rate of 0.38% was found over the 1987–2000 period. For the 13-year time period, we found a decrease of core forest and an increase of patch and perforated forest. We conclude that the proposed methodology allows to quantify changes of forest cover and forest spatial pattern at ∼1 ha minimum mapping unit.


Carpathians European forests Forest cover change Forest spatial pattern Remote sensing 



The authors would like to thank Institute of Geography and Spatial Management, Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland, Gorczański National Park, Poland and Regional Directorates of State Forests in Kraków and Krosno, Poland, for their help in collecting data necessary for the project


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.EC-DG-Joint Research CentreInstitute for Environment and SustainabilityIspra (VA)Italy
  2. 2.Institute of Geography and Spatial ManagementJagiellonian UniversityKrakówPoland

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