Recently, marginal lands have been attracting attention as areas of high cultural and natural value that are undergoing profound, uncontrolled transformations. These changes are seen as a threat to the cohesion and identity of existing landscapes. However, ongoing processes are often difficult to interpret and evaluate without a long-term historical perspective. Here, we focused on understanding the long-term landscape dynamics in the depopulated and economically marginalized Wiar River basin, where 87% of inhabitants were displaced after World War II. A detailed, spatially explicit land-cover analysis based on eight series of topographic data (dating from 1780 to 2017), in line with the review of archival sources and literature, allowed us for identification of patterns and drivers of change. We linked the driving forces and the resulting landscape properties to four distinct historical periods (i.e. pre-industrial, industrial, socialist, and free-market). We demonstrated how the landscape of 25 villages, dominated for centuries by open farmland, shifted after WWII into extensively forested, and that not all regions in Europe follow the pattern of increasing rate of land-cover change.
Andrzej Affek [email@example.com], Institute of Geography and Spatial Organization Polish Academy of Sciences, Twarda 51/55, 00‑818 Warszawa, Poland
Maria Zachwatowicz [firstname.lastname@example.org], Department of Geoecology, Faculty of Geography and Regional Studies University of Warsaw Krakowskie Przedmieście 30, 00-927 Warsaw: Poland
Jerzy Solon [email@example.com], Institute of Geography and Spatial Organization Polish Academy of Sciences, Twarda 51/55, 00‑818 Warszawa, Poland