Geographia Polonica (2017) vol. 90, iss. 1, pp. 65-79 | Full text
Agricultural land is declining in many mountainous regions of the world, often because political and economic changes make agriculture less profitable. This study compared the structure of land use in the Homerka catchment, an area of 19.3 km2 located in the West Polish Carpathians, using GIS techniques and cartographic materials between 1977 and 2009. This period covers the transformation of the Polish economy from a communist system to a free-market economy after 1989. The analysis indicates an increase in the forest area of the Homerka catchment by 18.14% and a decrease of cultivated land by 82.64%. The grasslands did not change significantly in their area, however, their spatial pattern was very dynamic related to their reduction due to forest expansion and enlargement due to cultivated land abandonment. The area of buildings revealed a continuous increase from 0.21% to 0.38%. The population density increased from 62 people/km2 in 1978to 79 people/km2 in 2009, while the population dependent on agriculture decreased from 35% to below 20% in the same period. The trend remains one of forest transition where, after a period of deforestation, large areas of land marginally suitable for agriculture are abandoned and left to forest regeneration. However, the driving of the labour force from agriculture to other economic sectors is not accompanied by migration from rural to urban areas.