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Characteristics and drivers of forest cover change in the post-socialist era in Croatia: evidence from a mixed-methods approach


Extensive forests in Croatia represent an important biological and economic resource in Europe. They are characterised by heterogeneity in forest management practices dating back to the socialist planned economy of the pre-1991 era. In this study we investigated the difference in rates of deforestation and reforestation in private- and state-owned forests during the post-socialist period and the causal drivers of change. The selected region of Northern Croatia is characterised by a high percentage of privately owned forests with minimal national monitoring and control. We used a mixed-methods approach which combines remote sensing, statistical modelling and a household-based questionnaire survey to assess the rates of forest cover change and factors influencing those changes. The results show that predominantly privately owned forests in Northern Croatia have recorded a net forest loss of 1.8 % during the 1991–2011 period, while Croatia overall is characterised by a 10 % forest cover increase in predominantly state-owned forests. Main factors influencing forest cover changes in private forests are slope, altitude, education structure, population age and population density. The results also show that the deforestation in private forests is weakening overall, mostly due to the continuation of the de-agrarisation and de-ruralisation processes which began during socialism.

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  1. “Croatian Forests” is not recording their data in terms of forest cover area but rather in wood biomass increment.


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This paper has been realised within the projects Environmental change and cultural Landscape as a Development Resource (supported by the Ministry of Science, Education and Sport of the Republic of Croatia) and CrorurisA scenario-based approach to discuss planning and development of Croatian rural areas (Project 4513 supported by the Croatian Science Foundation). The author would like to thank Dr. Erica Smithwick and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments during the reviewing procedure. The authors would also like to thank Dr. Antun Alegro and Karlo Beljan, mag. ing. silv., for their help.

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Correspondence to Marin Cvitanović.

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Communicated by Erica Smithwick.

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Cvitanović, M., Blackburn, G.A. & Rudbeck Jepsen, M. Characteristics and drivers of forest cover change in the post-socialist era in Croatia: evidence from a mixed-methods approach. Reg Environ Change 16, 1751–1763 (2016).

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  • Post-socialism
  • Eastern Europe
  • Forest management
  • Deforestation
  • Private forests
  • Mixed-methods research