Skip to main content
Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Maintaining natural and traditional cultural green infrastructures across Europe: learning from historic and current landscape transformations

Angelstam, Per; Manton, Michael; Yamelynets, Taras; Fedoriak, Mariia; Albulescu, Andra-Cosmina; Bravo, Felipe; Cruz, Fatima; Jaroszewicz, Bogdan; Kavtarishvili, Marika; Munoz-Rojas, Jose; Sijtsma, Frans; Washbourne, Carla-Leanne; Agnoletti, Mauro; Dobrynin, Denis; Izakovicova, Zita; Jansson, Nicklas; Kanka, Robert; Kopperoinen, Leena; Lazdinis, Marius; Metzger, Marc;
Show more authors


Context Maintaining functional green infrastructures (GIs) require evidence-based knowledge about historic and current states and trends of representative land cover types. Objectives We address: (1) the long-term loss and transformation of potential natural forest vegetation; (2) the effects of site productivity on permanent forest loss and emergence of traditional cultural landscapes; (3) the current management intensity; and (4) the social-ecological contexts conducive to GI maintenance . Methods We selected 16 case study regions, each with a local hotspot landscape, ranging from intact forest landscapes, via contiguous and fragmented forest covers, to severe forest loss. Quantitative open access data were used to estimate (i) the historic change and (ii) transformation of land covers, and (iii) compare the forest canopy loss from 2000 to 2018. Qualitative narratives about each hotspot landscape were analysed for similarities (iv). Results While the potential natural forest vegetation cover in the 16 case study regions had a mean of 86%, historically it has been reduced to 34%. Higher site productivity coincided with transformation to non-forest land covers. The mean annual forest canopy loss for 2000-2018 ranged from 0.01 to 1.08%. The 16 case studies represented five distinct social-ecological contexts (1) radical transformation of landscapes, (2) abuse of protected area concepts, (3) ancient cultural landscapes (4) multi-functional forests, and (5) intensive even-aged forest management, of which 1 and 4 was most common. Conclusions GIs encompass both forest naturalness and traditional cultural landscapes. Our review of Pan-European regions and landscapes revealed similarities in seemingly different contexts, which can support knowledge production and learning about how to sustain GIs.


Cultural landscape; Forest naturalness; Green infrastructure; Landscape history; Land-sharing and land-sparing; Social-ecological system; Reference landscape

Published in

Landscape Ecology
2021, volume: 36, number: 2, pages: 637-663
Publisher: SPRINGER

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, School for Forest Management
Manton, Michael
Vytautas Magnus University
Yamelynets, Taras
Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine
Fedoriak, Mariia
Yuri Fedkovych Chernivtsi National University
Albulescu, Andra-Cosmina
Alexandru Ioan Cuza University
Bravo, Felipe
Universidad de Valladolid
Cruz, Fatima
Universidad de Valladolid
Jaroszewicz, Bogdan
University of Warsaw
Kavtarishvili, Marika
No organisation
Munoz-Rojas, Jose
University of Evora
Sijtsma, Frans
University of Groningen
Washbourne, Carla-Leanne
University of London
Agnoletti, Mauro
University of Florence
Dobrynin, Denis
University of Eastern Finland
Izakovicova, Zita
Slovak Academy of Sciences
Jansson, Nicklas
Linkoping University
Kanka, Robert
Slovak Academy of Sciences
Kopperoinen, Leena
Finnish Environment Institute
Lazdinis, Marius
European Commiss
Metzger, Marc
University of Edinburgh
Show more authors

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG15 Life on land
SDG12 Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

UKÄ Subject classification

Human Geography
Forest Science

Publication Identifiers


URI (permanent link to this page)