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Sustainability 2018, 10(5), 1472; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10051472

Forest-Cover Increase Does Not Trigger Forest-Fragmentation Decrease: Case Study from the Polish Carpathians

1
Institute of Geography and Spatial Management, Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Gronostajowa 7, 30-387 Kraków, Poland
2
Institute of Environmental Sciences, Jagiellonian University in Kraków; Gronostajowa 7, 30-387 Kraków, Poland
3
Joint Research Centre, European Commission; Via Enrico Fermi 2749, I-21027 Ispra (VA), Italy, peter.vogt@ec.europa.eu
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 12 April 2018 / Revised: 30 April 2018 / Accepted: 4 May 2018 / Published: 8 May 2018
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Abstract

Understanding the causes and consequences of forest-fragmentation changes is critical for preserving various ecosystem services and to maintain biodiversity levels. We used long-term (1860s–2010s) and large-scale data on historical forest cover in the Polish Carpathians to identify the trajectories of forest fragmentation. Past forest cover was reconstructed for the 1860s, 1930s, 1970s and 2010s using historical maps and the contemporary national database of topographic objects. We analyzed forest-cover changes in 127 randomly selected circular test areas. Forest fragmentation was quantified with GuidosToolbox software using measures based on a landscape hypsometric curve (LHC). Despite a general increase in forest cover, forest fragmentation showed divergent trajectories: a decrease between the 1860s and 1930s (in 57% of test areas), and an increase between the 1930s and 1970s and between the 1970s and 2010s (in 58% and 72% of test areas, respectively). Although deforestation typically involves the increasing fragmentation of forest habitats, we found that forest expansion may not necessarily lead to more homogenous forested landscape, due to complex land-ownership and land-use legacy patterns. This is both a challenge and an opportunity for policy makers to tune policies in such a way as to maintain the desired fragmentation of forest habitats. View Full-Text
Keywords: forest-cover change; forest expansion; forest-fragmentation trends; fragmentation index; historical maps; landscape hypsometric curve; mountain areas forest-cover change; forest expansion; forest-fragmentation trends; fragmentation index; historical maps; landscape hypsometric curve; mountain areas
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Kozak, J.; Ziółkowska, E.; Vogt, P.; Dobosz, M.; Kaim, D.; Kolecka, N.; Ostafin, K. Forest-Cover Increase Does Not Trigger Forest-Fragmentation Decrease: Case Study from the Polish Carpathians. Sustainability 2018, 10, 1472.

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