Patterns and perception processes of spatial transformations in rural landscapes

For several decades already in Flanders, farmland has been under pressure to be developed for other land uses. Knowledge about the spatial structure of the Flemish farmland and the evolution of the agricultural land is therefore needed. How much farmland has disappeared? Does this transformation lead to a fragmented structure of the remaining farmland, and moreover of the landscape or the agricultural holding? And do agricultural parcels in particular actually become larger due to upscaling in the agricultural sector? The research is based on concepts of landscape ecology. We select landscape metrics to describe and quantify the complex structure and pattern of the Flemish agricultural landscape and to reveal characteristics that are not directly observable, such as fragmentation effects. Starting from the analysis of the spatial structure of farmland, trends of fragmentation and farmland loss are distinguished. We approach the spatial phenomenon ‘fragmentation’ from three different levels: fragmentation of the landscape, of the farm and of the property rights. For each analysis the appropriate landscape indicators are selected and combined into a measuring tool. In addition, qualitative data will be used to provide insight into the driving forces behind the established transformations. The results can contribute to policy strategies and facilitate policy recommendations to improve the spatial structure of farmland and the rural areas, which in turn will affect the rural landscape and the farm economy.



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