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Reading past landscapes : combining modern and historical records, maps, pollen-based vegetation reconstructions, and the socioeconomic background

  • Anneli Poska
  • Vivika Väli
  • Pille Tomson
  • Jüri Vassiljev
  • Kersti Kihno
  • Tiiu Alliksaar
  • Miguel Villoslada
  • Leili Saarse
  • Kalev Sepp
Publishing year: 2018-04
Language: English
Pages: 529-546
Publication/Series: Landscape Ecology
Volume: 33
Issue: 4
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Springer

Abstract english

Context: Anthropogenic and environmental changes are reshaping landscapes across the globe. In this context, understanding the patterns, drivers, and consequences of these changes is one of the central challenges of humankind. Purpose: We aim to test the possibilities of combining modern multidisciplinary approaches to reconstruct the land-cover and linking the changes in land-cover to socioeconomic shifts in southern Estonia over the last 200 years. Methods: The historical records from five, and maps from six time periods and 79 pollen-based land-cover reconstructions from four lakes are used to determine the land-cover structure and composition and are thereafter combined with the literature based analyses of socioeconomic changes. Results: All information sources recorded similar changes in the land-cover. The anthropogenic deforestation was comparable to today’s (approximately 50%) during the nineteenth century. Major political and socioeconomic changes led to the intensification of agriculture and maximal deforestation (60–85%) at the beginning of the twentieth century. The land nationalisation following the Soviet occupation led to the reforestation of the less productive agricultural lands. This trend continued until the implementation of European Union agrarian subsidies at the beginning of the twenty first century. Conclusions: Pollen-based reconstructions provide a trustworthy alternative to historical records and maps. Accounting for source specific biases is essential when dealing with any data source. The landscape’s response to socioeconomic changes was considerable in Estonia over the last 200 years. Changes in land ownership and the global agricultural market are major drivers in determining the strength and direction of the land-cover change.


  • Physical Geography
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use
  • Estonia
  • Historical data
  • Land-use change
  • Past cultural landscape
  • Pollen-based reconstructions
  • Socioeconomic factors


  • ISSN: 0921-2973
E-mail: anneli [dot] poska [at] nateko [dot] lu [dot] se

Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science
Lund University
Sölvegatan 12
S-223 62 Lund

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