The loss of farmland trees and shrubs in western Poland in the 21st century assessed with the use of Google Maps
With the loss of natural and semi-natural habitats, the diversity and the amount of ecosystem services that can be provided in the agricultural landscape are diminishing, and self-regulatory abilities decrease. The aim of the research (72 sample plots – 1 x 1 km squares, mean time span equal to 8 years) was to recognise the changes in the number and length of woody (tree or shrub) linear landscape elements, and the number of solitary trees in the Wielkopolska region to verify how rapid development of agriculture in Poland in the 21st century affects the landscape structure. The analyses show a decline by 9.3% (from 2.17 to 1.97 km/km2) in length of woody linear elements, 7.4% (from 16.5 to 15.0 per km2) in number of woody linear elements, and 14.6% (from 28.8 to 24.4 per km2) in solitary trees. The loss was significantly faster in the period (2017-2018) of liberalisation of the regulations on tree and shrub removal, mainly due to a high rate of removal in plots located in an urbanized landscape. The decrease in length of woody linear elements occurred in all the categories of their location distinguished in the study (by 9-41% in a category). The highest loss occurred in the woody linear elements located along melioration ditches and water courses, along roads, and in the outskirt of towns. These changes are similar to those occurring in the 20th century in western Europe. The decrease in the number of woody linear landscape elements and solitary trees can be considered an indicator of the unsustainable agriculture management.