Land use (Czech Republic)
Why should we care about this issue
Anthropogenic interventions into landscape represented by changes in land use, not very responsible management in forests and a bad status of health in forest areas presenting significant problems for the status of the environment, mainly for the preservation of biological diversity.
Anthropogenic interferences with the landscape represented by changes in land use in Europe’s densely populated and developed countries present a common and significant environmental problem, particularly in terms of the preservation of biological diversity. The degradation of favourable land-use categories (such as forests or pastures) towards unfavourable categories (such as built-up areas, artificial surfaces, arable land) results in a disturbance in the biotopes of a number of plant and animal species and may affect the condition of other environmental components, for example, if it impacts on the draining regime, soil erosion and soil quality or water and air quality. Landscape fragmentation, caused particularly by the linear construction of road infrastructure, disturbs the function of the landscape and ultimately threatens biological diversity. In general, human interference reduces the landscape's ability to resist unfavourable external effects (such as weather fluctuations, drought, flooding, etc.), which is particularly detrimental at present because these phenomena are occurring more frequently as a result of climate change.
The state and impacts
There is an increase of built-up areas and fragmentation which leads to the reduction of landscape stability. Defoliation of forest growth is also despite the slower rate still high.
Land use trends in the Czech Republic since 2000 show a slow decline in arable land area, which has been replaced by built-up or otherwise transformed areas (such as road infrastructure), see Fig. According to the available data, no significant proportion of land is being appropriated for more favourable land use categories (forests or pastures), and such a decline is compensated for by the transformation of arable land to these categories (forestation or planting of grass in localities that are not fit for agricultural use). Although the reduction of arable land is extremely favourable for the environmental stability of the landscape (since farming of arable land is connected with the use of agricultural chemicals and other interference with landscape functions), this positive effect is clearly outweighed by the increase of artificial and built-up areas, whose proportion and dynamic is the key indicator of anthropogenic impacts on the landscape.
The growth of these land use categories accelerated significantly after 2000 (see Fig.). Although built-up areas fluctuated and a more significant increase only occurred after 2005, the category of other spaces has had a permanently increasing tendency since 2000, and its share in total land use indicates that residential and commercial buildings have been constructed not only on ’green fields’ but also on previously built-up land (e.g. old industrial plants, storage areas, etc.). The key driving forces of this tendency have been the urbanisation process (particularly suburbanisation and urban sprawl) and the construction of transport infrastructure – see the next chapter.
Changes in landscape coverage may also be assessed in accordance with the CORINE Land Cover (CLC) database, which was elaborated on the basis of a uniform method for all EU Member States (and for some non-members, such as Norway and Turkey) by means of interpretation of remote sensing data (satellite and aerial images). This database was updated for 2000 and 2006, for which ten-year (1990–2000) and six-year (2000–2006) change maps are available.
According to the CORINE database for 2006, which monitors changes larger than five hectares that are at least 100 m wide, it can be said that the area of arable land is being reduced in favour of perennial grass stands (by 620.5 km2 i.e. by approximately 2 % of the total arable land), which is the largest identified change, followed by vineyards (by 45.6 km2) and orchards. Furthermore, the results indicate that, since 2000, forest renewal has outpaced deforestation. As indicated by the speed of the growth of transformed land (which is considered urbanised land in the CLC nomenclature but which does not solely represent urban land), the significant increases in this category during the five years in question (2000-2006), i.e. about 69 km2, was approximately the same as during the previous ten years (1990-2000). The highest increase in this category was recorded for construction sites (30.5 km2 in 2006 as opposed to 5.6 in 2000). See here for additional information about CORINE project (CZ version).
At present, the most serious risks for the landscape include the gradual restriction of its passability, particularly due to fragmentation by linear structures and fencing, and the continuing development of the landscape. The construction of highways and expressways, modification of railway corridors and new developments lead to fragmentation of the landscape and disturbance of its function. It is a process which gradually splits the coherent natural environment into small mutually isolated localities that gradually lose their function. This process represents one of the most serious factors threatening the existence of many species.
Additional information: http://issar.cenia.cz/issar/page.php?id=1852.
The key drivers and pressures
On one hand it shows that in further agricultural, recreational and industrial non-interest areas the intensity of anthropogenic activities and the tide of economical activities of inhabitants decline. On the other hand a lot of areas are exposed to dynamic influence of a human society whether it is an urbanisation, intensive agricultural production and forest management, the construction of traffic networks or recreation.
GDP in individual regions demonstrates this very well. While in 2007, this indicator was 7085 % of the average value in the majority of the country, it exceeded 90 % in the south Moravia and central Bohemia regions. GDP in Prague is about 210 % of the average for the country as a whole and about 164 % of the average for EU27. Hence, Prague is the sole region of the Czech Republic that is significantly wealthier than the European average.
Regions with high economic performance and a sufficient number of jobs have witnessed a population increase due to migration, particularly after 2000. This was true not only of big cities but above all districts in their immediate vicinity suitable for daily commuting to work. In 2007, the highest population increase by migration was recorded in the central Bohemia region, particularly in the districts of Prague-East and Prague-West (average of 57 inhabitants per 1 000 inhabitants, i.e. 5.7 % in 2007), followed by the districts of Nymburk and Mladá Boleslav (about 25 inhabitants per 1 000 inhabitants). Other such districts include outer Brno with a migration increase of 2.5 %. In contrast, other regions (such as the entire Moravia-Silesia region and the district of Jeseník in the Olomoucký region) have seen a negative population increase due to migration, which means that people are moving away from these localities.
These migration flows have perceptibly enhanced housing development and urban sprawl in attractive regions as part of the suburbanisation process. This is typical for the current development of Prague and to a lesser extent also of Brno and other big cities. Land appropriation is connected with residential development and with the construction of commercial buildings, storage facilities and transport infrastructure serving the new urban areas. The suburbanisation process is represented either by ’greenfield’ development or may swallow existing municipalities in the vicinity of cities whose character is totally modified due to this process and which are transformed wholly or partly into suburbia (city housing zones outside the city limits, see Map).
The suburbanisation process can be very well demonstrated by new housing construction in individual regions. In 1997–2005, an average of 2.5 flats per 1 000 inhabitants was built. The highest share of these flats was built around Prague. In this period, approximately ten flats per 1 000 inhabitants were built in the district of Prague-West and almost eight flats per 1 000 inhabitants were built in the district of Prague-East.
These socio-economic processes affect the dynamic of the landscape in two ways. On the one hand, it leads to a decline in anthropogenic activities and migration of the economically active population in more remote areas that are not attractive for agricultural, recreational or industrial purposes. On the other hand, many areas are exposed to the dynamic impact of human society, whether represented by urbanisation, farming, forestry, construction of transport networks or recreation.
Suburbanisation and land use
Portal www.suburbanizace.cz (CZ version)
Environment – an environment for life? (CZ version)
The 2020 outlook
During the implementation of the aims and provisions of national strategies it is possible to expect the improving the health status of forests, also forest management, the current trend in the use of territories will probably continue.
In future, we can expect a continuation of the trends described above, although due to the economic recession, the increase in developed land and other areas transformed by anthropogenic activities will not be as dynamic as it was at the beginning of the 21st century. Important factors for development of the agricultural land fund will include the extent and effectiveness of its protection. It can be expected that climatic changes will lead to certain changes in farming in some regions, and this will affect land use.<br><br>
An important role in forestry will be played by random tree felling resulting from insect infestations and wind. The total forest land fund area is not likely to undergo any significant changes.
Existing and planned responses
During the fulfilling of the European and national legislation and during the more economizing it is going into the enhancement of the function of landscape and also to the improvement of the health status of forest areas.
The obligations of the Czech Republic arise from the European Landscape Convention. The principal objective of this Convention is to ensure the protection of individual types of European landscape. Its significance consists in the fact that it imposes the duty to create and to implement, with the participation of the public and of local and regional authorities, such landscape policies that are considerate and sustainable with regard to the nature of the landscape, and to consider the nature of the landscape in the formulation of spatial development, urban planning and other ministerial or inter-ministerial policies. This is provided for in part by the system of specially protected territories.
A specific problem of the Czech Republic is represented by ’brownfield sites’ (disused land and industrial facilities), which, in addition to their economic and social contribution, may contribute to the improvement of the environment. The Ministry of the Environment clearly supports the use of brownfield sites. This trend has been visible recently with its focus on efforts to reduce the number of prepared ’greenfield sites’ only to those designated for strategic investors and to areas where the demand for free space has not yet been satisfied.
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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