Environmental Modeling & Assessment

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 269–278 | Cite as

Natural forest regrowth as a proxy variable for agricultural land abandonment in the Swiss mountains: a spatial statistical model based on geophysical and socio-economic variables

  • Mario Gellrich
  • Priska Baur
  • Niklaus E. Zimmermann


In many European mountain regions, natural forest regrowth on abandoned agricultural land and the related consequences for the environment are issues of increasing concern. We developed a spatial statistical model based on multiple geophysical and socio-economic variables to investigate the pattern of natural forest regrowth in the Swiss mountain area between the 1980s and 1990s. Results show that forest regrowth occurred primarily in areas with low temperature sum, intermediate steepness and soil stoniness as well as close to forest edges and relatively close to roads. Model results suggest that regions with weak labor markets are favored in terms of land abandonment and forest regrowth. We could not find an effect of population change on land abandonment and forest regrowth. Therefore, we conclude that decision makers should consider non-linearities in the pattern of forest regrowth and the fact that labor markets have an effect on land abandonment and forest regrowth when designing measures to prevent agricultural land abandonment and natural forest regrowth in the Swiss mountains.


agriculture land-use change logistic regression reforestation spatial autocorrelation 



This study is part of the Swiss National Research Programme 48 (NRP48): “Landscapes and habitats of the Alps” (contract number 4048-064360) and is financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF, Additional funding came from the 6th Framework Programme of the European Union (contract number GOCE-CT-2003-505376). The authors are grateful for fruitful discussions on statistical methods with Dr. Gillian Rutherford, Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL. We also wish to thank two anonymous referees for their helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mario Gellrich
    • 1
  • Priska Baur
    • 1
  • Niklaus E. Zimmermann
    • 1
  1. 1.Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSLBirmensdorfSwitzerland

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