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Research article2010Peer reviewedOpen access

Forest Habitat Loss and Fragmentation in Central Poland during the Last 100 Years

Mazgajski, Tomasz D.; Zmihorski, Michal; Abramowicz, Katarzyna


The process of habitat fragmentation consists of two components habitat loss and fragmentation per se. Both are thought to be among the most important threats to biodiversity. However, the biological consequences of this process such as species occurrence, abundance, or genetic structure of population are driven by current, as well as previous, landscape configurations. Therefore, historical analyses of habitat distribution are of great importance in explaining the current species distribution. In our analysis, we describe the forest fragmentation process for an area of 178 km(2) in the northern part of Mazowsze region of central Poland. Topographical maps from the years 1890, 1957 and 1989 were used. Over the 100-year period, forest coverage in this area changed from 17% to 5.6%, the number of patches increased from 19 to 42, while the area of the forest interior decreased from 1933 ha to 371 ha. The two components of fragmentation were clearly separated in time. Habitat loss occurred mainly during the first period (1890-1957) and fragmentation per se in the second (1957-1989). Moreover, we recorded that only 47.7% of all the currently (in 1989) afforested areas constitute sites where forests previously occurred (in 1890 and 1957). For forest dwelling organisms characterized by low dispersal abilities, the effective forest coverage seems to be a half of the real forest area in the studied landscape. New afforestations should be planned especially to increase those patches which contain ancient forest, where various plants and animals sensitive to fragmentation may have survived.


fragmentation; landscape history; forest continuity; deforestation; ancient forest; afforestation

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Silva Fennica
2010, Volume: 44, number: 4, article number: 136

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