Regional Environmental Change

Historical deforestation as a cause of alluviation in small valleys, subcarpathian loess plateau, Poland

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Courtesy of Regional Environmental Change

The undulating loess Kanczuga Plateau, 250–270 m a.s.l., is located in the temperate climatic zone of Central Europe, within the northern foreland of the Carpathians. It is dissected by a network of valleys 30–60 m deep, infilled with several metres of complex minerogenic and organic deposits which started to accumulate during the early Holocene. The southern side of one of these valleys is dissected by several dry valleys. The mouth sections of these valleys have buried surface comprising peat and/or organic silts, overlain by sandy–silty alluvium. 14C dates indicate that the alluviation of these valley floors, which proceeded from the headwaters to the mouth sections, began in the 1100 ad. The gradual intensification of soil erosion in the upper part of the catchment and associated sedimentation probably encompassed only a few centuries, with greatest alluviation during the Little Ice Age. This plateau, which is under the influence of more continental climatic conditions than the low-mountain and upland regions of Western Europe, features more climatic contrasts. Here environmental changes triggered by land use were superimposed on climatic change. The most intensive processes of soil erosion and sediment transfer as well as alluviation, coincided with the first phase of cooling during the Little Ice Age. It was the final stage of the intensification of these processes, probably more intensive than its initial phase in the eleventh century, caused primarily by deforestation resulting from the development of agriculture.

Keywords: Subcarpathians - Loess plateau - Historical alluviation - Deforestation - Human impact

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