Szczepańska, A*. and Senetra, A. 2019. Forests as the Key Component of Green Belts Surrounding Urban Areas. Baltic Forestry 25(1): 141-151.

   The development of Polish cities leads to the urbanization of the surrounding rural areas. The National Urban Development Plan until 2030 has introduced the concept of obligatory green belts around metropolitan and regional hubs to prevent uncontrolled suburbanization. This study analyzes the distribution and spatial continuity of forests and the spatial relationships (spatial autocorrelations) between the forests situated in the rural suburbia of Olsztyn, north-eastern Poland. The aim of the analysis was to evaluate the spatial continuity of forests by grouping similar objects and identifying areas which could be included in green belts. The location quotient (LQ) and the Gini coefficient were taken into account in the analysis of the spatial distribution of forests. Local Moran’s statistics were calculated and spatial clusters were identified to illustrate the diversity of the examined suburban space based on the similarity of the neighbouring objects (cadastral districts) and to determine the statistical significance of these relationships. The results of the study reveal spatial irregularities and disproportions in the distribution of forests in the suburban zone of Olsztyn as well as the presence of local instabilities and discontinuities. The municipalities surrounding Olsztyn are characterized by relatively high density of forests which build a green belt. The values of the location quotient in the analyzed cadastral districts and the values of the Gini coefficient point to moderately uniform spatial distribution of forests in Olsztyn suburban area. The low values of LQ in the districts situated along the eastern and southern boundaries of Olsztyn denote lower availability of forests and, consequently, lower quality of life. The applied methods are useful tools for evaluating, planning and optimizing the spatial distribution of forests around large urban centres.

Keywords: forest area, suburban zone, green belt, spatial concentration, spatial autocorrelations