Agroforestry Systems

, Volume 85, Issue 2, pp 215–231 | Cite as

Patterns of afforestation on abandoned agriculture land in Latvia

  • Anda RuskuleEmail author
  • Olǵerts Nikodemus
  • Zane Kasparinska
  • Raimonds Kasparinskis
  • Guntis Brūmelis


Abandonment of agriculture land and subsequent natural afforestation have been common features of the contemporary Latvian rural landscape, particularly in the period since 1990. This process affects the structure, ecology and visual qualities of the landscape. The study examines spatial characteristics of afforestation in relation to various environmental factors. The study was conducted in the central part of Latvia, where there is abundant abandoned agriculture land and a great variety of spatial afforestation patterns. The most typical patterns in this area were linear, mosaic, and continuous afforestation, as well as development of afforestation from the forest edge. The results of the study show that the spatial patterns of natural afforestation of abandoned agriculture fields can be very diverse, and do not follow the classical secondary succession model. Afforestation can be delayed by a dense cover of herbaceous vegetation for a period of up to 20 years. There are many interacting factors that affect succession and development of afforestation patterns, such as soil properties, size and configuration of fields, previous land use and also the random nature of plant colonization by seed. Further studies on afforestation patterns would help to understand better their ecological, economic and social effects as well as to determine optimal solutions for the use of abandoned agriculture land.


Abandonment Afforestation Secondary succession Environmental factors 



The study was supported by the European Social Fund within the project (Support for Doctoral Studies at University of Latvia) as well as by the Latvian Council of Science (project No. 6198). We thank Dr. Geogr. Inese Silamikele for great support in field work in describing herbaceous vegetation and Arnis Gailis from the State Forest Service, who provided us with valuable information on dispersal of the seeds of the tree species. Furthermore, we would like to thank all the local people and experts interviewed who contributed with information on the former land use of the study sites and shared their views on potential use of the abandoned land in future.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anda Ruskule
    • 1
    Email author
  • Olǵerts Nikodemus
    • 1
  • Zane Kasparinska
    • 1
  • Raimonds Kasparinskis
    • 1
  • Guntis Brūmelis
    • 2
  1. 1.Faculty of Geography and Earth Sciences, University of LatviaRigaLatvia
  2. 2.Faculty of Biology, University of LatviaRigaLatvia

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