Quantifying Forest Ecosystems Fragmentation in the Subcarpathians between the Râmnicu Sărat and the Buzău Valleys, Romania, Using Landscape Metrics

Abstract: The Romanian Subcarpathian space has been the subject of continuous transformation during the last 2 centuries under the double impact of human activities and disruptive natural factors. Time and spatial dynamics of land use and coverage determined a major impact on the structure and functionality of the Subcarpathian landscape. In the Subcarpathians between the Râmnicu Sărat and the Buzău, the main tendencies in land use changes are highlighted by the decrease of forestry areas and increase of agricultural terrains, especially pastures and orchards, a consequence of the deforestation undertaken to answer local human needs. The fragmentation and the pronounced decrease of forestry ecosystems has been quantified by calculating and analysing landscape metrics, using land use and coverage maps derived from the Corine Land Cover 1990 and 2006 database. In the Subcarpathians between the Râmnicu Sărat and the Buzău, there has been registered a deforestation rate of 10.09% in the analysed period, but also an increase in landscape fragmentation. Thus, the number of forest patches increased by 10.96% and their average size decreased by 13.73%, while the shape remained unchanged. Landscape patches became more isolated, as the value of the average proximity index decreased by 42.07%. The study underlines the necessity of elaborating a strategy of protection and preservation for these ecosystems, aimed at increasing the reforestation rate and decreasing the fragmentation degree. A sustainable planning system of land use must be enforced in order to increase forest productivity and the uniformity degree of the Subcarpathian landscape.