Land use - State and impacts (Poland)

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

Results of the Corine Land Cover 2006 project indicate that the country’s dominant land cover categories are agricultural areas (62.7 % of the country), of which the largest are arable lands (44.5 % of the country) as well as forests and semi-natural areas (31.2 %) with a dominant share of forests (30.1 % of the country). Artificial surfaces occupy 4 % of the country. In this category, urban fabric predominates (3.2 % of the country).

Fig. 1: Land cover in Poland in 2000 and 2006 based on the results of the CLC2006 project (Source: GIOŚ/PMŚ)

Changes in land cover in Poland during the periods 1990–2000 and 2000–06 were relatively small; in fact, they did not exceed 1 % of the country (0.8 % and 0.5 % of the territory, respectively).
The most important land cover changes in Poland include:

  • the gradual, albeit slow, growth in urban areas, particularly an increase in commercial, industrial and housing areas, as well as areas occupied by transportation and infrastructures,
  • loss of agricultural land, particularly arable land and pastures,
  • successive increase in forest cover associated with the agroforestry programmes implemented in Poland, and changes within the forest areas related to timber operations, forest renovation and natural disasters (fires and trees fallen as a result of wind).

Fig. 2: Changes in land cover in the period 2000–06 based on the results of the CLC2006 project (Source: GIOŚ/PMŚ)

Legend: 112 discontinuous urban fabric; 121 industrial or commercial units; 122 road and rail networks and associated land; 131 mineral extraction sites; 132 dump sites; 133 construction sites; 211 non-irrigated arable land; 222 fruit trees and berry plantations; 231 pastures; 311 broad-leaved forests; 312 coniferous forests; 313 mixed forests; 324 transitional woodland-scrub; 333 sparsely vegetated areas; 512 water bodies.
The graph does not include changes covering an area of less than 1 000 ha.

Fig. 3: Distribution of land cover changes types in Poland on the basis of the results of the CLC2006 project (Source: GIOŚ/PMŚ)

Fig. 4: The changes of cover/land use in Poland in the period 2000–06 (CLC 2006) (Source: GIOŚ/PMŚ)

In the period 1990–2006, the area occupied by urbanisation increased by 40 020.71 ha, previously used mainly as arable land, fruit trees and berry plantations.

Fig. 5: Land occupied by constructions, infrastructure, transport and other anthropogenic forms in 1990–2006, based on the databases CLC_changes 90–00 and CLC_changes 00–06 (Source: GIOŚ/PMŚ)

The percentages of various land cover categories in the increases of anthropogenic surfaces slightly differ in the two periods analysed. Construction and mineral extractions sites form the highest proportion of occupied land, both in 1990–2000 and 2000–06. In 2000–06, the share of land associated with road and rail networks and related infrastructure increased significantly, being close to 16 % of newly created anthropogenic sites. In the period 1990–2000, the increase in land occupied by transportation accounted for only 2.2 %. 

Fig. 6: Distribution of land cover categories in newly created artificial surfaces, based on the databases CLC_changes 90–00 and CLC_changes 00–06 (Source: GIOŚ/PMŚ)

The area of forest and semi-natural areas is increasing steadily. In the period 1990–2000, the increase was about 15 795 ha (just over 6.2 % of the total change), while in the period 2000–06 it was 18 460 ha which represents 10.1 % of the total area of change. The increase in forest area is mainly a result of a systematic afforestation of agricultural land. Changes within the forest areas, including changes associated with the destruction of forests by hurricanes, changes related to planned forest management (timber operation and restoration of forests) and, to a relatively small extent, the acquisition of forest areas by construction, transport and industry account for around 1.5 % of the total change in the years 2000–06.

The pace of land cover change is slower in Poland than in many other European countries. The area of these changes is also smaller. This applies, in particular, to such indicators as the proportion of land occupied by transport and communications, the development of anthropogenic land, the fragmentation of forests and land used for agriculture.


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