Land use changes and their impact on sustainable development along an altitudinal gradient in the Polish Western Carpathians in the period 1846–2019
The objective of this study was to analyse land use land cover changes (LULC) in context of land degradation and sustainable development in three catchments located along an altitudinal gradient (250-1250 m a.s.l.) in the central part of the Polish Western Carpathians in 1846-2019. The investigated period covers three socio-economic systems with different human activities reflected in LULC changes: (1) Traditional capitalism up to the end of World War II; (2) Communism with centrally planned economics up to 1989 and (3) Free-market economics after collapse of communism in 1989. SDG Indicator 15.3.1 approach was applied to evaluate whether a given area had remained in the same LULC type or had changed. The resulting maps and matrixes represented a three-class LULC change indicator, involving degradation, improvement and neutral or no change from a land degradation point of view (Sims et al., 2017). The analysis of cadastral maps and aerial photographs indicates that land degradation changes have been greatly influenced by natural conditions as well as by general or local driving forces in different types of socio-economic and political systems. The first period was characterized by the highest land degradation due to conversion of cultivated land into grassland and deforestation for agricultural purposes. In the following periods a gradual decrease in the proportion of land degradation was observed. The exception was the foothill catchment (250-600 m a.s.l.) where after communism period the land degradation was at a similar level due to the further the retreat of cultivated land and increase built up areas. In each period the greatest land degradation occurred in the foothill catchment with a highest contribution of cultivated land and population density compared to two catchments in the mountains (600-1250 m a.s.l.).
Keywords: LULC|land degradation|political systems|agricultural catchment|Polish Carpathians