Discovering extinct water bodies in the landscape of Central Europe using toponymic GIS

Jindřich Frajer 1  and David Fiedor 1
  • 1 Department of Geography, Faculty of Science, Palacký University Olomouc

Abstract

Due to global climate change and anthropogenic pressures on the landscape, one of the current geographical problems is retention of water in agricultural landscapes. One possibility to tackle this issue is the construction of artificial water bodies, which has historical traditions in the form of fishponds in Central European landscapes. Unfortunately, many such water bodies were transformed into arable lands during the 18th and 19th centuries. In this study, the identification and spatial distribution of these extinct water bodies is subject to examination, using place names in a GIS environment. Some 375 place names were selected from the official database of place names in the Czech Republic. This set of names was compared to current maps, as well as to old maps from the Habsburg monarchy from 1783–1880 (1st, 2nd and 3rd Military Survey). The map resources were used to find out if a place name was related to an extinct fishpond, and in which period the pond ceased to exist. Using spatial statistics, the existence of areas with a high concentration of place names referring to extinct ponds is demonstrated. It has also been established that areas linked to fishpond extinction in the same period now face more frequent droughts. Thus, the set of place names can be used to identify not only extinct water bodies, but also to serve as being potentially useful in other analyses using GIS, as well as in the public sphere (reclamation).

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