Ciupa, T., Suligowski, R. and Wałek, G.* 2016. Use of GIS-Supported Comparative Cartography and Historical Maps in Long-Term Forest Cover Changes Analysis in the Holy Cross Mountains (Poland). Baltic Forestry 22(1): 63-73.

   In recent years forest research benefits from access to archived cartographic materials and geographic information systems technology, which both allow to analyze the processes of forest cover changes over time. Available digital elevation models (DEMs) and soil maps make it possible to consider terrain relief and soils characteristics in the research. The present paper analyzes changes of forest cover in the Holy Cross Mountains (central Poland) within the period of 1800–2011 and they relation to altitude and slope gradient classes as well as to genetic soil groups. The source materials consist of topographic maps created in 1800, 1900, 1930, 1983 and thematic maps: Polish Sozological Map in 1: 50,000 scale from 2011, Soil Map of Poland in 1: 300,000 scale and SRTM3 digital elevation model. Scanned maps were georeferenced to metric coordinate system and then forest areas were digitalized by on-screen vectorization. Digital elevation model was used to delineate elevation and slope gradient classes. Finally, the overlay geoprocessing methods were used to analyze the areas of forest cover changes in time, also in addition to altitude zones, slope gradient and genetic soil type classes. Forest cover indicator (%) and mean annual index of forest cover change (ha•year-1) have been calculated. Forest cover was the highest at the beginning of the study period in 1800 and the lowest in 1930. The decrease in forest cover in this period equaled 35.3 %. A slow process of recovery began in 1930 and continues till today. However, the coverage noted in 1800 has not yet been achieved. Also forest cover stability analysis has been performed. Today forest areas of very high stability cover about 21% of the Holy Cross Mountains and 49% of the area covered by trees in 1800. The present analysis has been performed with the use of GIS-supported comparative cartography and historical maps, which have significantly improved the investigations of long-term forest cover changes.

Keywords: forest cover changes, comparative cartography, relief, soils, central Poland.