Land use change in an agricultural landscape causing degradation of soil based ecosystem services

Sci Total Environ. 2019 Apr 1;659:1526-1536. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.12.455. Epub 2019 Jan 2.


Landscape structure and ecosystem service (ES) provision in Central Europe have changed fundamentally and some ES have been irreversibly degraded over the last 250 years. The land use change analysis of a typical agricultural landscape near Leipzig (Germany) uses digitized historical GIS-data, serial cadastral maps and documents in time steps 1750, 1850, 1950 and 2005. Arable land area increased from 73.4% (1750) to 87.2% (2005) and grassland decreased from 22.1% to 4.2%. ES provision change analysis has resulted e.g. in a significant increase of winter wheat production comparing the decades 1990-1999 to 2000-2009. However, natural soil production capacity has degraded based on the interpretation of historical soil assessment maps (1864, 1937) and the actual erosion risk hazard has increased strongly in the same period. Caused by the Prussian agricultural revolution between 1750 and 1850 a high biodiversity level is found, followed by a slight decrease during the industrialization in the second half of the 19th century. By industrialized production and collectivization since 1960 devastation of vegetation structures has brought habitat degradation and a dramatic biodiversity loss. Driving forces analysis shows that significant drivers of land use and ES changes since 1750 are socioeconomic, political and technical drivers. It clarifies the impact of landscape changes by Prussian agrarian reforms, industrialization, technical and land management innovations, Kolkhoz system and Common Agricultural Policy on ES degradation based on the indicators crop production, natural soil production capacity, soil degradation caused by erosion hazards and biodiversity.

Keywords: Cadastral map analysis; Driving forces analysis; Historical soil assessment; Land use change; Long-term degradation of ecosystem services.