Land use - Drivers and pressures (Poland)
Demographic processes and economic development are the main driving forces behind changes in land use. The transformation is primarily a result of the development of industrial activities, urbanisation, expansion of communication systems, and the introduction of intensive commercial forms of agriculture, fisheries and forestry.
Statistical data from the years 1998–2008 indicate an increase (more than threefold) in areas excluded from agricultural and forestry use for non-agricultural and non-forestry purposes. In 2008, the areas that were intended for housing — 3 205 ha (nearly 50 % of all exclusions) — had the largest share in the total area excluded.
Over the last decade, the number of housing units created has nearly doubled. Service and leisure areas are increasing in line with the increase in housing construction. The demand for passenger and cargo transport is also increasing, entailing the development of communication networks. The total length of surfaced public roads has increased by more than 16 % over the last two decades.
In the early part of the 21st century, the population showed a decreasing trend. The year 2008 was the first in which the population was more than the previous year. But the size of households has changed; there has been a decrease in the average number of persons per household (3.17 in 1999, 2.94 in 2008).
The migration from countryside to town, as well as foreign emigration, caused by economic factors, influences the country’s settlement patterns. Two phenomena are characteristic: the concentration of populations around the cities and the expansion of depopulated areas. In recent decades, there has been a sharp increase in the population in communities surrounding major urban centres. The phenomenon of impulsive suburbanisation is seen around the main urban centres. There is also excessive, scattering of country building and violation of the rural landscape.
But large areas of the country are still dominated by traditional, extensive farming. However, the farm structure is changing and the number of large farms has increased. In 2008, farms with an area of 50 ha accounted for 1 % of all farms. Direct subsidies from EU contribute to the reforestation of fallow land. The increase in forest cover is also a result of an effective forest management policy.