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Trends in land ownership fragmentation during the last 230 years in Czechia, and a projection of future developments

Sklenicka, Petr, Zouhar, Jan, Trpáková, Ivana, Vlasák, Josef
Land use policy 2017 v.67 pp. 640-651
agricultural land, land degradation, land ownership, landscapes, markets, population growth, soil fertility, sustainable land management
A high level of fragmentation of farmland ownership is an important underlying cause of land degradation and, at the same time, an obstacle to sustainable land management. This study makes the first-ever analysis of long-term trends in the rate of fragmentation. Our study covers the period from the earliest stages of the current form of ownership patterns at the end of the 18th century until the present day. On the basis of significant predictors that have been identified (initial fragmentation, population growth, historical development of inheritance laws and of the land market, natural soil fertility and landscape type), we go on to project probable developments for the period from 2016 to 2045. A total of 102,984 land parcels in 56 cadastral units in the territory of Czechia have been analysed on the basis of data from four years (1785, 1840, 1950, 2015). Our study considers the development of two basic indicators of fragmentation – Mean Parcel Size and Number of Owners per 100ha. The Mean Parcel Size has decreased over a period of 230 years from 1.08ha to 0.64ha, at a mean rate of −0.26%year−1. During the same period, the Number of Owners per 100ha has risen from 17.50 to 79.66, at a mean rate of 0.61%year−1. A detailed analysis of the development trends confirms significant spatial variability and also time variability of the rates of the two indicators. The analysis also shows their mutual complementarity: growth in the rate of one of the indicators is usually accompanied by a drop in the other. The general trend that we project for the territory of Czechia in the upcoming 30 years is that there will be further diminution of the physical size of land parcels (continuing fragmentation of land parcels) accompanied by a reduction in the Number of Owners (defragmentation of land ownership).