A photograph and a digital model of dunes as they exist today and as they existed 200 years ago
A destroyed dune known as “Cossack hill,” as it exists now on the left, and below right, a 3D model of how it looked 200 years ago.

New digital mapping research reveals that the Toruń dunes in Poland once rose 45 meters high, began to form 13,900 years ago, and remained virtually unchanged until the second half of the 20th century. In the last 200 years, dunes have shrunk 26.5% in the city limits, and 60.2% in the most urbanized part of the city. The greatest part of this degradation happened after the late 1950s. To make this comparison, researcher Paweł Molewski of Copernicus University in Poland compared maps and drawings of the landscape from 1793-2000, and after 1965 was able to use satellite views also. He used a coordinate system, the Topographic Object Database, and software including ESRI ArcGIS 10.4.1 and Global Mapper 17 to map, and Voxler 3 to model the dunes. Ultimately, Molewski’s work suggests that if Toruń residents want to preserve what dunes remain, their further urbanization and development will have to protect the natural features more deliberately.


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