Land use - State and impacts (Luxembourg)
Based on a comprehensive land take assessment for Luxembourg, the territory underwent major transformations over the period 1962-1999 [Note 1]: scrubland and secondary forest landscapes as well as overgrown vacant lots increased by 64 % and 43 %, respectively, while wetlands were reduced by 82 %, orchards by 58 % and solitary trees by 55 %. Changes in the agricultural area in use caused the destruction of rare biotopes of great ecological value in open settings (such as dry grasslands and wetlands). The expansion of the forest area accentuated the disappearance of these threatened biotopes [Figure 3].
Moreover, changes in the composition and structure of landscapes and biotopes have also been caused by urban sprawl and the encroachment of commercial and industrial zones, the expansion of infrastructure (transportation and technical equipment), farmland consolidation, drainage, and shifting farming practices.
In order to have a more up-to-date assessment of land-use changes, data from the cadastral register can be analysed. According to this source, between 1990 and 2009, non constructed areas – i.e. agricultural and woodland areas as well as watercourses – have declined from 92.3 % to 86.5 % of the territory, a decline of some 147 km2 (or 5.7 % of the national territory). These 147 km2 are spread between newly constructed areas (housing, office, commercial and industrial buildings – 123 km2 (or 4.7 % of the territory) and new transportation infrastructures – 24 km2 (or 0.9 % of the territory).
Nevertheless, land-use change from non constructed areas to constructed areas and transportation infrastructures has slowed down these last years. Between 1990 and 2000, agricultural and woodland areas lost on average 11 km2 per year (or 0.44 % of the territory or 3 ha per day) in favour of built-up areas. This amount fell to 3.9 km2 per year (or 0.15 % of the territory or 1.1 ha per day) on average for the period 2000-2009. This slowdown can also be witnessed when looking at built-up areas: the annual growth rate for these areas reached 6.5 % between 1990 to 2000 and dropped to 1.4 % for the subsequent period 2000-2008 [Figure 1].
In addition to net losses of natural habitat, habitat productivity has also been undermined by the loss of continuity, particularly by expansion of the road network and other linear infrastructure. An assessment of the degree of landscape fragmentation shows that Luxembourg is among the most seriously affected of European countries. Since 1960, nearly 28.5 % of hedges and tree rows have been lost, and more than 50 % of solitary trees have been eliminated [Figure 3, Figure 4].
Finally, the spread of industrial and urban development and the intensification of agriculture have caused a degradation of watercourses and their associated wetlands.
Figure 1 - Land use: 1972/1990-2009
Source: STATEC, Luxembourg in Figures 2010, page 6.
Figure 3 - Landscape monitoring: 1962-1999
Source: Ministry of Sustainable Development and Infrastructure - Department of the Environment.
Figure 4 - Average size of non-fragmented parcels
Source: EEA-ETC/TE, 2002.