Main content area

Drift sand fields as a result of past and current deforestation in the Silesian‐Cracow Upland, Poland

Dulias, Renata
Land degradation & development 2018 v.29 no.5 pp. 1530-1539
anthropogenic activities, biodiversity, coal, deforestation, durability, economic development, highlands, iron, landscapes, lead, limestone, metallurgy, mining, sand, silver, vegetation, zinc, Poland
The Silesian‐Cracow Upland, due to the exceptionally large reserves of various natural resources, was under the influence of intense human activity throughout the last millennium. Economic development of the Upland began in the Middle Ages by mining and smelting of iron ore, silver, and lead; from the 18th to the 20th century, the area experienced intense exploitation of coal, zinc and lead ores, stowing sands, as well as dolomites and limestone. Mining and metallurgy have almost always been associated with deforestation. The sandy substrate devoid of vegetation was subjected to aeolian processes, resulting in numerous fields of drift sands. In this paper, based on the analysis of archival and contemporary cartographic materials, as well as historical and archaeological studies and field research, spatial distribution of drift sands was determined, its origin, the time of creation, and durability in the landscape. Research showed that drift sands appeared in the Middle Ages and its ‘desert’ character persisted for 200–300 years, often even for 400–500 years. In the second half of the 20th century, most of the former areas with drift sands were afforested. Currently, bare sands are found only on 2 areas in the Silesian‐Cracow Upland. As unique landscapes, they require special protection because of the biodiversity and geodiversity. Research confirmed that historical interpretations are a valuable source of information about the old landscapes. This knowledge can and should be used by local authorities, institutions, and societies to manage the space, respecting the traces of the settlement and the economic past.