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Historical Development of Forest Patterns in Former Slash and Burn Sites in Southern Estonia

  • Pille Tomson
  • Robert Gerald Henry Bunce
  • Kalev Sepp
Chapter
Part of the Environmental History book series (ENVHIS, volume 5)

Abstract

Slash and burn is one of the oldest methods of clearing and fertilizing land for growing crops. The practice continued in Estonia until the beginning of the twentieth century. The historical background to the use of fire in Estonia is first described, including the legal controls that were set up. After cultivation the slash and burn fields left as fallow, before trees were allowed to regenerate for up to 20 years, when the cycle started again. The term buschland from the local Baltic German dialect was used on documents to designate the land that had been used for regular burning—a land use category that no longer exists. The literature on the environmental impact of slash and burn is discussed but there is no agreement about the effects of the practice on soil. The effects on biodiversity have also not been widely studied. The study area was the Karula National Park in Southern Estonia. Maps from the end of nineteenth century were compared with contemporary digital map and databases using Mapinfo. In the nineteenth century the buschlands occupied 34 % of farmland but the analyses showed that now 77 % had become forest, with the remainder being grasslands or arable. These changes were because the sites were on hills and the slopes were too steep for modern agriculture. The dominant tree species, forest types and soils are also described and are associated with infertile conditions.

Keywords

Slash and burn Land use history Forest biodiversity Biocultural diversity 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This research has been financed by the institutional research funding IUT21-1 of the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research and by the European Union supported Environmental Conservation and Environmental Technology R&D programme project ÖKOMAA.

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pille Tomson
    • 1
  • Robert Gerald Henry Bunce
    • 1
  • Kalev Sepp
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Agricultural and Environmental SciencesEstonian University of Life SciencesTartuEstonia

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