One of the major land use and land cover changes in Europe is agricultural land abandonment (ALA) that particularly affects marginal mountain areas. Accurate mapping of ALA patterns and timing is important for understanding its determinants and the environmental and socio-economic consequences. In highly fragmented agricultural landscapes with small-scale farming, subtle land use changes following ALA can be detected with high resolution remotely sensed data, and successional vegetation height is a possible indicator of ALA timing. The main aim of this study was to determine the relationship between successional vegetation height and the timing of agricultural land abandonment in the Budzów community in the Polish Carpathians. Areas of vegetation succession were vectorized on 1977, 1997, and 2009 orthophotomaps, enabling the distinguishing of vegetation encroaching on abandoned fields before and after 1997. Vegetation height in 2012–2014 was determined from digital surface and terrain models that were derived from airborne laser scanning data. The median heights of successional vegetation that started development before and after 1997 were different (6.9 m and 3.2 m, respectively). No significant correlations between successional vegetation height and elevation, slope, aspect, and proximity to forest were found. Thus, the timing of agricultural land abandonment is the most important factor influencing vegetation height, whereas environmental characteristics on this scale of investigation may be neglected.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited