WIT Press

Socio-economic And Land-use Changes In The Pedja River Catchment Area, Estonia


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WIT Press


K. Meier, V. Kuusemets & Ü. Mander


During the last 15 years, large-scale socio-economical changes have occurred in Estonia. This has been influencing agricultural activities and has resulted in land-use changes with ecological consequences. The relative share of agriculture in GDP has dropped from 19% to 3.1 during the last 20 years, the number of people employed in agriculture has decreased from 136 800 to 31 500 during the last 15 years. This has caused a loss of jobs and the abandonment of agricultural land. The biggest change in land use has been the overgrowing of ecologically valuable wooded meadows, floodplains, alvars, and natural grasslands. The area of wooded meadows has decreased from 850 000 ha in the 1940s to 800 ha at present. Also, in the community of Puurmani, the human population has dropped 11% during the last 3 years. Agricultural activities have declined significantly; the number of pigs has decreased 24 times and the number of cattle, 1.6 times during last 15 years. 514 ha of former flooded meadows and wooded meadows of River Pedja have reverted to forest and 33 ha to dense bush at present. Keywords: biodiversity, flooded meadows, land-use changes, socio-economic changes, wooded meadows. 1 Introduction During the last years, considerable socio-economic changes have occurred in the whole of Europe. For Eastern European countries these changes have been remarkable during the last 15 years as a result of political changes. At the beginning of the 90s a rapid change in the political system, from Soviet Socialist Republic to the independent state of Estonia, took place, which gave new opportunities for the development of the country. This included ownership changes, which in rural areas meant the liquidation of the old system of


biodiversity, flooded meadows, land-use changes, socio-economicchanges, wooded meadows.