Land use - State and impacts (Denmark)

SOER 2010 Common environmental theme (Deprecated) expired
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SOER Common environmental theme from Denmark
Land Land
Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 21 Mar 2015

The main part of the Danish land is used for agricultural production (62 %). However, since the early 1950s the arable area has decreased, and between 1980 and 2008 the area decreased by 3%. The remaining land use includes forests (13 %), roads and built-up-areas (10 %), nature areas in the open land, for example heathland and meadows, (9 %) and lakes and watercourses (2 %). During the last decades, nature areas in the open land have decreased, whereas forests and built-up-areas have increased. Since the end of the 19th century, forest areas have more than doubled. The total forest area was 570 000 hectare in 2008. The city zone areas, increased by 10% from 2000 to 2008.

Figure 1 (1.1.1)

Figure 1 (1.1.1): Development in land use in Denmark during more than eight decades. Lakes and rivers (approximately 2 %) and areas of unknown use (approximately 10 %) are not included. Since the agricultural area is computed from historical data, the data are slightly lower than the recent data from Statistics Denmark. Quantification methods for forest areas has changed over the years, therefore time‑dependent figures are not comparable. Source: National Environment Research Institute and Forest and Landscape, University of Copenhagen.

Figure 2 (MTR:6.2.1)

Figure 2 (MTR:6.2.1): Developments in open habitat acreage: permanent grass (pasture, common, meadow, saltmarsh), heath, bog and sand dunes. Source: Danish National Environmental Research Institute.


The Danish landscape suffers from a high degree of fragmentation. Approximately 92 % of the nature areas in the open land (so-called § 3 protected areas) are below five hectares, of which 58 % are below 0.25 hectare. The latter areas are mainly lakes and ponds. Fragmentation can have a large impact on the ability for animals to move around and plants to spread their seeds.

Figure 3 (1.7.1)

Figure 3 (1.7.1). The number of open land protected nature areas as a function of size. Protected areas refer to those included in the Danish Nature Protection Act. Source: National Environment Research Institute.


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