High Nature Value farmlands in Europe are of greatest importance in the conservation of biodiversity. Their environmental importance has been recognized for some time, and has been studied mostly in Western Europe. This article describes the results of multivariate statistical analyses performed on data (13 variables) collected from the latest National Agricultural Census and the CORINE database to provide a typology of farmlands with respect to their nature value at municipality level (LAU 2, Local Administrative Units level 2) across Poland. All municipalities were grouped into eight categories (types). Some of the farmland categories were considered to be High Nature Value farmland (HNVf). The following interrelated variables mostly contributed to the identification of HNVf: share of protected areas and forest, grassland, arable land and fallow, farmland cover diversity, and rate of nitrogen fertilization. HNVf was identified in 958 out of 2173 municipalities, covering 44% of the territory of Poland. The identified HNVf also overlaps partially (61%) with LFAs (Less Favored Areas). Farmlands with the highest nature value are located mostly across mountain and hilly areas, close to forests, and protected areas on lowlands and river valleys. The identified HNV farmlands are characterized by low-input farming systems and a large share of semi-natural habitats with a high landscape mosaic.
The aim of this paper was to analyze reasons and a range of changes in agricultural land areas due to allocation them for non-agricultural purposes across a period of 1990-2015 in Poland. This phenomena has not been sufficiently considered till now. Lack of this knowledge does not allow effective reduction of the decline of agricultural land by appropriate legislation and administrative action, especially on urban areas. In Poland, a significant proportion of agricultural land is allocated annually for non-agricultural purposes, which is connected with their permanent withdrawal from agricultural production. The permanent decline in the area of agricultural land in the country has been observed since the beginning of the systemic transformation. The dominant direction of the land withdrawal for non-agricultural purposes is their allocation to housing construction. In 1995 the Law on the protection of agricultural and forest land was introduced. This law includes strengthened economic tools for the protection of agricultural land in the form of mandatory charges for the withdrawal of agricultural land showing the best soil quality. This has led to a significant reduction in agricultural land use withdrawal. However, accelerated regional development following the accession of Poland to the EU and, then, the need to expand technical infrastructure resulted in several amendments to the 1995 Act, significantly weakened the protection of agricultural and forest land. It seems that the land as the unrepeatable good should be strictly covered by more respect and protection than ever before, especially in areas with the highest production value.