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Physico-geographical mesoregions of Poland: Verification and adjustment of boundaries on the basis of contemporary spatial data

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Abstract

The programme of identification, cataloguing and evaluation of Polish landscapes, part of the implementation of the European Landscape Convention, has caused an increase in interest in physico-geographical regionalisation over recent years. The commonly accepted regionalisation of Poland developed by J. Kondracki (Kondracki & Richling 1994) is sufficient for work at an overview scale (e.g. 1:500,000), whereas its spatial accuracy is too low to make use of it for the purpose of Polish landscape cataloguing. The aim of this article is to present a more up-to-date and detailed division of Poland into mesoregions, adjusted to the 1:50,000 scale. In comparison with older work, the number of mesoregions has increased from 316 to 344. In many cases, somefar-reaching changes in meso- and macroregions were made. Nevertheless, in most cases the previous system of units was maintained, with more detailed adjustment of boundaries based on the latest geological andgeomorphological data and the use of GIS tools for the DEM analysis. The division presented here is a creatively developing new work aligning the proposals of the majority of Polish researchers. At the same time, it is a regionalisation maintaining the idea of the work developed by J. Kondracki as well as his theoretical assumptions and the criteria used to distinguish units, which makes it a logical continuation of his regional division.
Geographia Polonica
2018, Volume 91, Issue 2, pp. 143-170
https://doi.org/10.7163/GPol.0115
INSTITUTE OF GEOGRAPHY AND SPATIAL ORGANIZATION
POLISH ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
www.igipz.pan.pl
www.geographiapolonica.pl
PHYSICO-GEOGRAPHICAL MESOREGIONS OF POLAND:
VERIFICATION AND ADJUSTMENT OF BOUNDARIES
ON THE BASIS OF CONTEMPORARY SPATIAL DATA
Jerzy Solon1 Jan Borzyszkowski2 • Małgorzata Bidłasik2 Andrzej
Richling34 • Krzysztof Badora5 • Jarosław Balon6 • Teresa Brzezińska-
-Wójcik7Łukasz Chabudziński7 Radosław Dobrowolski7 Izabela
Grzegorczyk2 Miłosz Jodłowski6 Mariusz Kistowski8 • Rafał Kot9
• Paweł Krąż6 • Jerzy Lechnio3 • Andrzej Macias10 • Anna Majchrow-
ska11 Ewa Malinowska3 • Piotr Migoń12 • Urszula Myga-Piątek13
Jerzy Nita13 El żbieta Papińska11 Jan Rodzik7 Małgorzata Strzyż14
• Sławomir Terpiłowski7 • Wiesław Ziaja6
1 Institute of Geography and Spatial Organization
Polish Academy of Sciences
Twarda 51/55, 00-818 Warsaw: Poland
Corresponding Author’s e-mail: j.solon@twarda.pan.pl
2 Institute of Environmental Protection
– National Research Institute
Krucza 5/11d, 00-548 Warsaw: Poland
3 Faculty of Geography and Regional Studies
University of Warsaw
Krakowskie Przedmieście 26/28, 00-927
Warsaw: Poland
4 Faculty of Health and Social Sciences
Pope John Paul II State School of Higher Education
in Biała Podlaska
Sidorska 95/97, 21-500 Biała Podlaska: Poland
5 Faculty of Natural Sciences and Technology
Opole University
Oleska 48, 45-052 Opole: Poland
6 Institute of Geography and Spatial Management
Jagiellonian University
Gronostajowa 7, 30-387 Kraków: Poland
7 Faculty of Earth Sciences
and Spatial Management
Maria Curie-Skłodowska University
Kraśnicka 2 D, 20-718 Lublin: Poland
8 Institute of Geography
University of Gdańsk
Bażyńskiego 4, 80-309 Gdańsk: Poland
9 Faculty of Earth Sciences
Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń
Lwowska 1, 87-100 Toruń: Poland
10 Faculty of Geographical
and Geological Sciences
Adam Mickiewicz University
Dzięgielowa 27, 61-680 Poznań: Poland
11 Faculty of Geographical Sciences
University of Łódź
Narutowicza 88, 90-139 Łódź: Poland
12 Institute of Geography
and Regional Development
Wrocław University
pl. Uniwersytecki 1, 50-137 Wrocław: Poland
13 Faculty of Earth Sciences
University of Silesia
Będzińska 60, 41-200 Sosnowiec: Poland
14 Department of Environment Protection
and Environmental Development
Jan Kochanowski University in Kielce
Żeromskiego 5, 25-349 Kielce: Poland
144 Jerzy Solon et al.
Geographia Polonica 2018, 91, 2, pp. 143-170
Introduction
Legal regulations introduced in 20151 intro-
duced the obligation to carry out a so-called
landscape audit, i.e. a periodical compre-
hensive review and assessment of the state
of the Polish landscape. In turn, it created the
necessity to develop a commonly accepted
methodology of delimitation, typology and
valuation of current landscapes. This task
had a direct impact on the increasing inter-
est in physico-geographical regionalisation
due to the proposed audit methodology. The
landscapes that are distinguished should
be established and described in the context
of different types of geographical regional
units (Solon et al. 2015). In the course of fur-
ther work, it appeared that only the physico-
geographical regionalisation (Kondracki
& Richling 1994), which covers the entire
1 The Act of 24 April 2015 amending certain acts
in relation to strengthening tools of landscape protec-
tion instruments (Journal of Laws of 2015, item 774).
The Act amended the Nature Protection Act of 16 April
2004 (Journal of Laws of 2016, item 2134, as amended)
and the Spatial Planning and Management Act of 27
March 2003 (Journal of Laws of 2017, item 1073,
as amended).
territory of Poland, is commonly accepted
and sufficient for work at an overview scale
(e.g. 1:500,000). However, its spatial accura-
cy is definitely too low for it to be used directly
for the landscape audit.
The first unpublished attempts to specify
the boundaries of physico-geographical
mesoregions as basic units in the above
mentioned regionalisation were made
in 2015-2016 in the Institute of Geography
and Spatial Organisation of Polish Academy
of Sciences, and then in the Institute of Envi-
ronmental Protection – National Research
Institute. This experience gave rise to the idea
of establishing a team of specialists from dif-
ferent research centres for joint verification
and adjustment of the physico-geographical
division of Poland.
It is worth emphasizing that more than
20 years have passed since the develop-
ment of the previous comprehensive version
of a regionalisation. Since then numerous
new details have been obtained concerning
the diversity of the components of the natu-
ral environment in Poland and very powerful
instruments have become available for the
analysis of spatial diversity in GIS systems.
Abstract
The programme of identification, cataloguing and evaluation of Polish landscapes, part of the implementation
of the European Landscape Convention, has caused an increase in interest in physico-geographical regionalisa-
tion over recent years. The commonly accepted regionalisation of Poland developed by J. Kondracki (Kondracki
& Richling 1994) is sufficient for work at an overview scale (e.g. 1:500,000), whereas its spatial accuracy is too
low to make use of it for the purpose of Polish landscape cataloguing. The aim of this article is to present
a more up-to-date and detailed division of Poland into mesoregions, adjusted to the 1:50,000 scale. In com-
parison with older work, the number of mesoregions has increased from 316 to 344. In many cases, some
far-reaching changes in meso- and macroregions were made. Nevertheless, in most cases the previous system
of units was maintained, with more detailed adjustment of boundaries based on the latest geological and
geomorphological data and the use of GIS tools for the DEM analysis. The division presented here is a crea-
tively developing new work aligning the proposals of the majority of Polish researchers. At the same time, it is
a regionalisation maintaining the idea of the work developed by J. Kondracki as well as his theoretical assump-
tions and the criteria used to distinguish units, which makes it a logical continuation of his regional division.
Key words
regionalisation • spatial units • boundaries of regions • Poland
145Physico-geographical mesoregions of Poland: Verification and adjustment of boundaries…
Geographia Polonica 2018, 91, 2, pp. 143-170
Moreover, over the last 15-20 years many
Polish academic centres have developed dif-
ferent new proposals for regional divisions
of small areas performed by means of vari-
ous techniques and methodologies.
The significance of the problem became
apparent at a joint conference of the Cul-
tural Landscape Commission of the Polish
Geographical Society and the Polish Asso-
ciation for Landscape Ecology held in May
2017: New Challenges to the Regionalisa-
tion of Poland. The aim of this conference
was to discuss the need for the verification
of previous regional divisions, the presenta-
tion of concepts and methodology (sources,
materials, criteria) as well as the presenta-
tion of specific proposals for regionalisation
and solutions. An equally important aim was
to indicate the current opportunities for the
practical use of the regionalisation procedure
and their effects on the preparation of land-
scape audits (Nita et al. 2017).
The aim of this article is to present a more
up-to-date and detailed division of Poland into
mesoregions, adjusted to the 1:50,000 scale.
The division presented is not a simple compi-
lation of previously published proposals, but
it is a creatively developing new work align-
ing the proposals of most Polish researchers
dealing with this problematic issue. At the
same time, it is a regionalisation maintaining
the idea and spirit of regionalisations devel-
oped by J. Kondracki as well as his theoretical
assumptions and the criteria he used to dis-
tinguish units, which makes it a logical con-
tinuation of his work.
History and evolution
of the physico-geographical
division of Poland developed
by Professor Jerzy Kondracki
In the “Physical Geography of Poland” written
by S. Lencewicz (1955), which was to a great
extent a reprint of the “Great Univers al Geogra-
phy” (Lencewicz 1937), J. Kondracki introduced
numerous additions and adjustments taking
account of the changed boundaries of Poland
after the Second World War. In particular,
he included a description of large geographi-
cal regions (Coastal Lowlands, Pomeranian
Lakeland, Masurian Lakeland, Wielkopolska-
Kujawy Lowland, Masovia-Podlasie Lowland,
Lublin Upland, Kielce-Sandomierz Upland,
Nida Basin, Kraków-Częstochowa Upland,
Silesian Upland, Silesian Basin and Trzeb-
nica Hills, Sudety Mts and Sudety Foothills,
Sub-Carpathian Basins, Flysch Carpathians,
Tatras and Podhale), following the concepts
and layout of Lencewicz’s original hand-
book. At the same time, the large regional
units distinguished referred to the results
of the discussion taking place from 1946-
1947 at conferences organised by the Pol-
ish Geographical Society (Kondracki 1946a,
1946b), although they were not identical both
in terms of nomenclature and the hierarchical
rank of units.
The same year, J. Kondracki (1955) pub-
lished an article in which he not only present-
ed criteria used to distinguish regions and
rules for their nomenclature, but also under-
took a discussion with other authors for their
views. More importantly, he presented his
own original scheme for the regional subdivi-
sion of Poland. He took into account 6 very
large units, 16 regions and 80 subregions.
Further development of work on the
regionalisation of Poland resulted in the pres-
entation by Kondracki (1961) of a termino-
logical scheme of hierarchical regional units
and the identification of 7 physico-geograph-
ical provinces (comprising 14 subprovinces)
on the territory of Poland, included in 2 large
areas. This division (together with the pro-
posed names of the units which were mainly
new) has been applied until now with no sub-
stantial changes. In addition, this article listed
39 macroregions and 210 smaller units (most
frequently corresponding to mesoregions
within the current approach). Unfortunately,
the work does not include a map illustrat-
ing the boundaries of the units that were
distinguished.
This division, with minimal modifications
in the number of units (6 provinces, 14 sub-
provinces, 39 macroregions, 212 mesore-
gions) and the original letter and digit coding
146 Jerzy Solon et al.
Geographia Polonica 2018, 91, 2, pp. 143-170
system, was applied in two editions of the
“Physical Geography of Poland” (Kondracki
1965a, 1967).
Further evolution of the physico-geograph-
ical division of Poland resulted in the introduc-
tion of a uniform digit coding of regional units
(Kondracki 1965b). In the work cited, J. Kon-
dracki included all the subprovinces and
macroregions listed in the work from 1961,
assigning them uniform decimal codes follow-
ing the system put forward one year earlier
by the International Geographical Union.
This stage of regionalisation was summa-
rised in a work from 1968 (Kondracki 1968).
It listed 364 mesoregions, a proportion
of which were outside Poland. A map attached
to the article (developed by J. Kondracki and
J. Ostrowski) showed the boundaries of mes-
oregions which became a standard for many
years. This work also contributed to the stand-
ardisation of names and their common use.
It was also included at 1:2,000,000 scale
in the National Atlas of Poland (Kondracki &
Ostrowski 1973-1978).
A map with different graphics but with
generally the same boundaries was includ-
ed in the “Physico-Geographical Regions
of Poland” (Kondracki 1977). It included
6 provinces, 18 subprovinces, 56 macrore-
gions and 318 mesoregions. It differs from
the previous map by the use of changed num-
bering in relation to some of the mesoregions
as well as by several small additions and
amendments. An identical layout of regional
units was also included in later editions of the
“Physical Geography of Poland” (e.g. Kondrac-
ki 1978, 1988).
In 1994, two important cartographic
developments were published. The first one
was a map entitled “Types of natural land-
scape and physico-geographical units” by
J. Kondracki and J. Ostrowski, constituting
an appendix to the book (Kondracki 1994).
In the table of contents of the map, there
are 309 mesoregions, while the bounda-
ries of the units differ in many places from
the boundaries on the map of 1977. The
differences result not only from a different
precision of drawings, but also from substan-
tial changes which have been intentionally
introduced.
The second map is a presentation of the
physico-geographical regions in the Atlas
of the Republic of Poland (Kondracki & Rich-
ling 1994). It is based on the map from 1977,
but the boundaries are clearly modified. The
previous general drawing was just made
more detailed, whereas the regions were
substantially changed (based on substantive
criteria). It should be noted that these chang-
es differ from the modifications introduced
in the map developed by J. Kondracki and
J. Ostrowski in 1994.
The map from the Atlas of the Republic
of Poland became a new standard and was
reproduced many times, for example in the
“Regional Geography of Poland” (Kondracki
1998, 2000).
Kondracki (2000) stated that the maps
published in the Atlas of the Republic
of Poland, together with the standardisation
and official approval of the names of the
regions, completed the last stage in the devel-
opment of views on the physico-geographical
regionalisation of Poland. Nevertheless,
this statement should not be treated as an
arbitrary proposal to refrain from further
work on regionalisation, in particular in rela-
tion to issues concerning the boundaries
of the mesoregions, which mainly intervene
at a more detailed spatial scale. The necessity
to perform this work is also confirmed by the
fact that numerous maps included in the com-
pilation from 2000 (Kondracki 2000) reflect
the boundaries not only at a different level
of cartographic detail (in comparison with the
Atlas of the Republic of Poland) but also with
different substantive drawings, frequently dif-
fering to a great extent from the boundaries
included in all earlier versions of the map.
Selected examples of regional
physico-geographical division
In parallel with later versions of Polish region-
alisation developed by J. Kondracki, work
147Physico-geographical mesoregions of Poland: Verification and adjustment of boundaries…
Geographia Polonica 2018, 91, 2, pp. 143-170
on regionalisation was performed in different
academic centres. Part of this simply con-
cerned local issues, other work of a regional
nature covered individual provinces (voivod-
ships) or large morphological units. These
publications, occurring at a different frequen-
cy in various centres and periods of time,
were sometimes polemical in relation to the
solutions proposed by J. Kondracki, but they
often concerned only proposals for more
detailed delineation of the boundaries. Most
of the works published by the mid-1980s are
only of historical value, whereas later works
had a clear impact on contemporary views
on physico-geographical regionalisation. It is
particularly clear in relation to the southern
part of the country.
In Poland, physico-geographical regionali-
sation of the Carpathians was generally only
carried out by authors from the Kraków cen-
tre, while everybody indicated the need for
modification of the division made by J. Kon-
dracki, in particular for areas of the former
Kraków Voivodship (Czeppe & German 1979),
the area of the Carpathian Foothills (German
1992), and the whole area of the Polish Car-
pathians together with the Eastern Carpathi-
ans (Balon et al. 1995) and the Małopolskie
Voivodship (German 2001). Differences
between different approaches were analysed,
for example, by W. Maciejowski (2009). In the
works of J. Balon and M. Jodłowski (Balon &
Jodłowski 2005; Jodłowski & Balon 2005),
the authors analysed existing divisions and
proposed further changes in the Polish-Slovak
border area. In accordance with the principle
of political neutrality of physico-geographical
regions (Balon 2000), some corrections were
made in regional boundaries and taxonomic
categories, and the modification of names
was proposed; the changes were aimed
at achieving greater consistency between Pol-
ish regionalisation and the Slovak divisions.
These works resulted, for example, in the
regionalisation of the Małopolskie Voivodship
(Balon et al. 2012). The above mentioned divi-
sions of the Carpathians were defined at the
overview scale. The attempt to analyse them
at a more detailed scale revealed inaccuracies
and errors, including areas not belonging
to any of the regions distinguished or of
environmental features that are completely
different from the characteristics of the
regions to which they had been assigned.
The attempt to solve several similar problems
with the regionalisation of the central part
of the Western Carpathians was presented
in the work of J. Balon (2012). Much atten-
tion was paid to the boundaries of the Tatra
Mts (Balon 2001; Balon et al. 2015a, 2015b;
Jodłowski 2001, 2002) and the Kraków Gate
(Balon & German 2007). The cross-border
regionalisation of the Western Carpathi-
ans is included in the work of J. Balon and
M. Jodłowski (2014).
An example of the Authors’ approach
to the larger area is the physico-geographical
regionalisation of the Podkarpackie Voivod-
ship (Ziaja 2009), based on the scope of the
higher units in the work of J. Kondracki (1998),
but introducing numerous corrections at the
level of mesoregions. These corrections
resulted from the Authors’ own research
studies and used the results of such earlier
works as the work of J. Balon et al. (1995)
referring to the Carpathians or the work of
J. Buraczyński (1997) concerning the Roztocze
macroregion and the publications of P. Wład
(1996a, 1996b) discussing the former Prze-
myśl Voivodship.
The issues of the physico-geographical
regionalisation of border regions of the south-
western Poland lowlands, mountains and
uplands were explored at Opole University.
The studies concerned mainly the Głubczyce
Plateau (Badora 2007) and the Opole Hum-
mock (Badora 2016). In the first case, it was
proposed to exclude the Głubczyce Plateau
from the Silesian Lowland and to include
it into the Sudety Foreland. This was suggest-
ed by J. Kondracki (2000), who indicated that
this unit has upland features and belongs
to the Sudety Foreland. Moreover, taking into
account the diversity of geological structure
and terrain relief, it was proposed to divide
this mesoregion into a western part called
the Nysa Kłodzka and Osobłoga Interfluve
by L. Baraniecki (1968) and an eastern part
148 Jerzy Solon et al.
Geographia Polonica 2018, 91, 2, pp. 143-170
called the Głubczyce plateau by A. Jahn
(1968). The studies of the physico-geographi-
cal allocation of the Upper Cretaceous Opole
Hummock resulted in two alternative solu-
tions being proposed: the inclusion of this
previously unclassified unit, together with the
gorge section of the valley of the Oder River
between Opole and Krapkowice, into the Sile-
sian Upland or its separation within the Sile-
sian Lowland as a new upland mesoregion
(Badora 2016).
Regional divisions of the Silesian-Kraków
Upland, including the divisions of administra-
tive units located within its b oundaries, e.g. the
division of the area of what was, until 1999,
the Katowice Voivodship, and then later the
Silesian Voivodship, and even of units at the
level of a commune, were the subject of the
work of different authors, part of which was
developed in the University of Silesia. They
were usually proposals for detailed subdivi-
sions of mesoregions and took into account
features of the abiotic environment at a local
level (Szaflarski 1955; Karaś-Brzozowska
1960; Czeppe 1972; Nita 2008; Dulias 2013;
Myga-Piątek & Nita 2013). The creation
of these subdivisions consisted in distinguish-
ing physico-geographical units at the level
of microregions, and even submicroregions.
These detailed subdivisions revealed non-
compliance with the boundaries of the mes-
oregions developed by J. Kondracki. In some
cases, differences concerned only the details
of the work carried out and the cartographic
scale at which it was performed (Szaflarski
1955; Karaś-Brzozowska 1960; Czeppe 1972;
Nita 2008, 2010).
Examples of such work are included in the
published proposals for the subdivision into
geographical units, e.g.: the Częstochowa
Upland (Czeppe 1972), the Silesian Upland
(Szaflarski 1955; Karaś-Brzozowska 1960;
Dulias & Hibszer 2004; Dulias 2013), Woźniki
Rock Step (Nita J. & Nita M. 2014), or admin-
istrative units e.g. Będzin Commune (Pulina
et al. 2008). Generally, the issue of region-
alisation was not the main purpose of the
works cited herein, but in most cases it was
a side-issue raised in addition to the main
topic of the work (e.g. the analysis of the
geological structure and detailed relief). The
issue of regional divisions was even more
rarely raised in relation to higher hierarchical
levels – macroregions (Nita 2010) or subprov-
inces (Nita 2013), where the author proposed
boundaries of the Polish Uplands different
from the division made by J. Kondracki.
A new division into mesoregions and units
of a lower rank has recently been proposed for
the Silesian Upland (Nita et al. 2016). For the
Silesia-Kraków Upland, the geomorphological
division developed by S. Gilewska (1972, 1986),
reflecting particularly well the physico-geo-
graphical units, was established in literature
and is frequently applied as a starting mate-
rial. Nevertheless, the simultaneous appli-
cation of the division at both scales causes
spatial and terminological chaos.
At the beginning of the 21st century, the
Silesian centre, like other centres, developed
work designed to provide a greater speci-
fication of the boundaries of the physico-
geographical regions with the use of a Digi-
tal Terrain Model (Nita 2002, 2010). The
availability and accuracy of the Digital Ter-
rain Model revealed the technical potential
to perform a greater specification and verifi-
cation of the existing divisions (Myga-Piątek &
Nita 2013; Nita et al. 2016). These works also
drew attention to important methodological
assumptions useful in the bottom-up proce-
dure applied in order to verify the boundaries
of meso- and macroregions (Nita et al. 2016),
as well as to the consequences and dangers
of methodological errors in generalised divi-
sions while moving to units of a lower rank.
The proposals for the regional subdivision
of the Sudety Mts and other areas of south-
western Poland were presented by P. Migoń
from the Wrocław University (Migoń 2005;
Migoń & Kasprzak 2015), who paid a great
deal of attention within his approach to the
geological and tectonic diversity of the ter-
rain in particular. His proposal partially refers
to other work developed in this centre which
repeatedly indicated the non-compliance
of the Czech and Polish regional divisions
in the border zone of the Sudety Mts. At the
149Physico-geographical mesoregions of Poland: Verification and adjustment of boundaries…
Geographia Polonica 2018, 91, 2, pp. 143-170
same time, the standardisation of the region-
al division and changes in the boundaries and
nomenclature of mesoregions were proposed
(Potocki 1994, 2000; Łach et al. 2010; Rozen-
kiewicz & Łach 2012).
Thorough regionalisation studies were less
frequently carried out in relation to the cen-
tral part of Poland, which may result from the
fuzziness and less distinct physico-geograph-
ical boundaries of terrain composed of old
glacial relief.
The area of the current Świętokrzyskie
Province (Voivodeship), the central part
of which is constituted by the Świętokrzyskie
Mountains, has never been subject to any
complex regionalisation study, and is con-
sidering newer approaches to the diversifi-
cation of the abiotic environment. Although
this area was of interest to researchers from
many scientific centres, most of their studies
– excluding the studies conducted by R. Czar-
necki (Balwirczak-Jakubowska & Czarnecki
1989; Czarnecki 2005) from the Warsaw
University – were of a contributory and
secondary character.
More interesting research studies only
started to come into sight at the end of the
20th century, i.e. from the scientific centre
in Kielce (now The Jan Kochanowski Univer-
sity in Kielce, which is the successor of the
pre-existing pedagogical universities in this
city). They showed, among other things, the
need to change the boundaries of the mes-
oregion of the Świętokrzyskie Mountains
(Kowalski 1993; Mityk 1993) which were asso-
ciated with the concepts for distinguishing
and characterising microregions (Dziedzic B.
& Dziedzic P. 1990; Kowalski 1993; Strzyż
2017). The distinct field of research work
was applied to utilitarian issues, in which
the scholars focused mostly on landscape
and typology issues, and the regionalisation
approaches were only of a supportive char-
acter (Mityk 1993; Strzyż 2014). In this per-
spective, special attention should be drawn
to the research studies of J. Mityk (1983a,b,
1993) with regard to the regional typology
of the Kielce area, which includes a detailed
methodology of delimiting the boundaries
of microregions. The author employed the
method of delimitation of geocomplexes com-
bined with multivariate analysis.
Among the work conducted at the Univer-
sity of Łódź special attention should be paid
to the monograph covering the 8 voivodships
which existed at that time in central Poland
in which the literature concerning regional
divisions and geographical nomenclature
of physico-geographical units was reviewed
(Papińska 1993). The work of G. Bezkowska
(1998) in which the spatial scope was lim-
ited to 5 mesoregions of central Poland
(Koło Basin, Sieradz Basin, Szczerców Basin,
Kłodawa Heights and Łask Heights) was pub-
lished a little later. The biggest disadvantage
of this article is the lack of maps presenting
descriptions of the results of the studies car-
ried out by the author, although the 69 micro-
regions distinguished undoubtedly contrib-
uted to the change of the boundaries of the
mesoregion. One year later, G. Bezkowska
(1999) presented the concept of distinguish-
ing a regional unit of macroregion rank, called
the Łódź region by the author. She indicated
its individual character and the possibility
of distinguishlng its boundaries in a relatively
easy way. The latest initiatives undertaken
in the Łódź centre concern issues of physico-
geographical microregionalisation, whose
“side” effect is a proposal to change the
boundaries of the mesoregion (Majchrowska
& Papińska 2018).
The most important regional divisions
in the eastern part of the Polish uplands
together with surrounding areas were devel-
oped in the 1950s in the geographical unit
associated with the Maria Curie-Skłodowska
University in Lublin. Different criteria were
adopted in order to distinguish units and
to establish their boundaries and nomencla-
ture. One of the first original concepts of how
to do this was the work of A. Chałubińska
and T. Wilgat (1954), in which the regionalisa-
tion was based on the diversity of geological
structure, hypsometry, relief, hydrography,
climate, soil and vegetation. Within a short
time, A. Jahn (1956) had published a mor-
phological division of the Lublin Upland.
150 Jerzy Solon et al.
Geographia Polonica 2018, 91, 2, pp. 143-170
The division was based on cartographic
materials and field observations. Anoth-
er important development was the work
of H. Maruszczak (1972) published much lat-
er, in which the author proposed the division
of the Lublin uplands into four geomorpho-
logical macroregions: Roztocze, the Pobuże
Basin, the Lublin Upland and the Volhyn
Upland which was then further divided into
17 mesoregions. This regionalisation in terms
of nomenclature and boundaries referred
to the regionalisation of A. Chałubińska and
T. Wilgat (1954) and A. Jahn (1954, 1956).
The division was based on two main criteria
– features of the terrain relief and the geolog-
ical structure. After the work of Maruszczak,
there was a 20-year period of stagnation.
During these years, different authors just
repeated earlier proposals and used them
as the basis for different thematic regionali-
sations. Original new work on regionalisation
dedicated to Roztocze was only published
in 1995 (Buraczyński 1995). The division
of Roztocze was based on features of the ter-
rain relief and the geological structure. The
following features of the terrain relief were
of significant importance: hypsometric gra-
dients and elements of the relief connected
with the diversity of surface sediments and
exposures of bedrocks. The following features
of geological structure were crucial: the ori-
gin-linked relationship of the boundaries with
faults of different rank and the role of ero-
sion, denudation and accumulation processes
in shaping the landscape features.
At the University of Warsaw, in addition
to the above mentioned work of J. Kondracki
and his research partners covering the entire
territory of Poland and ongoing work on their
improvement, numerous theoretical and
methodological works were published which
set down the rules for the regionalisation and
typology of spatial units of different rank writ-
ten by A. Richling, R. Czarnecki, K. Ostaszew-
ska and W. Lewandowski.
Research on the structure of the natural
environment in the vicinity of Płock should
be particularly emphasised among the
regional works. One of the more important
studies is the physico-geographical region-
alisation of the former Płock Voivodship
at a 1:100,000 scale (Richling & Czajkowski
1988). This involved greater specification
of the boundaries of the subprovinces, macro-
and mesoregions, whereas the delimitation
of microregions was performed with the use
of a method which consisted in combining
typological geocomplexes into larger units.
Later, the immediate vicinity of Płock was
analysed in detail in terms of regional bound-
aries. A great deal of these research studies
involved the verification of the mesoregion
boundaries and their adjustment to detailed
scales (including the 1:10,000, 1:50,000 and
1:100,000 scales) and the delimitation within
the existing regional division of units of lower
rank – microregions and submicroregions
– with the use of inductive and deductive
methods. The degree of modification of mes-
oregion boundaries was mainly conditioned
by the amount of detail in the input data
concerning individual components which con-
stitute the basis for the delimitation of the
individual hierarchical levels of the regional
division, but also their consistent application.
Bottom-up methods of regionalisation result-
ed in significant movements of the bounda-
ries of individual higher (above microregion)
levels of the regional division, especially when
the boundaries of sub- and microregional
units were consistently taken into account
at higher levels of the regional division, which
caused a cascading accumulation of devia-
tions (Lewandowski 1985; Richling & Lech-
nio 2005; Richling et al. 2012; Lechnio &
Malinowska 2018; Richling et al. 2018).
The division of the former Suwałki Voivod-
ship into physico-geographical microregions
should also be mentioned (Richling 1985a,
b). These units were distinguished without
larger corrections of mesoregions according
to their distinguishable parts, and this result-
ed in 37 individual units. Then, these microre-
gions were grouped according their typology,
which resulted in the distinguishing of 9 types
of microregions.
A. Richling is also the author of a detailed
study of the regionalisation of the interfluve
151Physico-geographical mesoregions of Poland: Verification and adjustment of boundaries…
Geographia Polonica 2018, 91, 2, pp. 143-170
area of the Nurzec and the mid Bug (Richling
1976). Works conducted in this place served
as the basis for the formulation of rules for
one of the deductive methods for region-
alisation. The same work presented regions
of I, II and III rank in the vicinity of Suwałki.
The third-level boundaries generally cor-
respond to the boundaries of the mesore-
gions distinguished through the combination
of smaller units into larger units in a consist-
ent manner.
In 2005, R. Czarnecki published a divi-
sion of the eastern part of the Sandomierz
Upland into microregions. This was based
on a detailed exploration of the area. The
boundaries of the microregions were deter-
mined due to the analysis of the map present-
ing the low level types of geocomplexes.
A form of summary of the work performed
by the Warsaw University research centre
in the field of detailed regionalisation is a plate
included in the Atlas of the Republic of Poland
(the Atlas of the Republic of Poland 1994,
plate 53.4), which presented the microregion-
alisation of the areas around Płock, Giżycko
and Kielce at a 1:200,000 scale, which was
developed by J. Kondracki and A. Richling,
and of the area around Nowy Sącz produced
by K. German and J. Kondracki.
Among work developed in Warsaw, the
work of J. Borzyszkowski and M. Bidłasik
(2016) from the Institute of Environmental
Protection – National Research Institute
should also be mentioned. These authors
presented their own version of a detailed
physico-geographical division of the Podkar-
packie Voivodship, the eastern part of the
Małopolskie Voivodship and the southern
part of the Lubelskie Voivodship, i.e. an area
covering 24 mesoregions within 5 macrore-
gions. They based their division into microre-
gions mainly on features of the terrain relief,
assuming the general rule that it reflects the
interior structure of a given area and all the
processes producing its diversity. It should
be mentioned that the proposed division
differs in many ways from the proposal
of W. Ziaja (2009), although they are both
based on the regionalisation of J. Kondracki.
Studies on the regional division of the
western Poland had been carried out at the
Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań since
the 1930s. Among these older studies, spe-
cial attention should be drawn to the article
by S. Pawłowski (1931), who saw the need
for the regional division of the country and
carried out the division of Wielkopolska into
regions on the basis of geomorphological cri-
teria. These works were continued after the
Second World War and resulted in the sub-
division of the Wielkopolska-Kujawy Lowland
into regions and subregions according to the
geomorphological criterion (origin-related
types of terrain relief) performed by B. Kry-
gowski (1961). Moreover, A. Marsz (1966a, b,
c) published the methodological assumptions
used to distinguish regional physico-geo-
graphical units and performed the physico-
geographical division of Wolin Island. Several
years later, T. Bartkowski (1968a, b) published
the division of the Wielkopolska Lowland into
orographic units and the division of north-
eastern Poland into physico-geographical
regions. Two years later, he published another
regionalisation of Wielkopolska and the Mid-
dle Odra area on the basis of a comprehen-
sive approach (Bartkowski 1970a). He took
the following features as criteria for the
division into physico-geographical regions:
geological structure, terrain relief, (genesis
and morphometry), water relations, climate,
soil and vegetation. In comparison with the
division of B. Krygowski (1961), he adopted
a greater degree of generalisation. A similar
approach was applied by L. Kozacki (1970),
who divided the northern part of the Konin
district into microregions for the purpose
of the assessment of changes in the natural
environment, while in the microregionalisa-
tion of this area he applied the following cri-
teria: geological structure, morphometry, sur-
face and ground water, soil, local climate and
land cover. The same set of criteria were used
by S. Żynda (1978) in his division of the Mid-
dle Odra area into the physico-geographical
units. It should be also mentioned that T. Bar-
tkowski (1970b) called for the division of the
country into microregions, discussing also
152 Jerzy Solon et al.
Geographia Polonica 2018, 91, 2, pp. 143-170
the methodology of this division. A slightly dif-
ferent methodology of distinguishing microre-
gions was proposed by L. Kozacki, A. Marsz
and S. Żynda (1970) in which terrain mor-
phometry and dominant land use type were
adopted as the basis for selection. Using a dif-
ferent methodology, T. Bartkowski and T. Tom-
kiewicz (1975) carried out the division of the
Leszno – Sława Śląska area into microregions.
They carried out an analysis of microregion-
alisation, although based on slightly different
criteria, which indirectly indicated the need
to change the mesoregion boundaries. Fol-
lowing the heyday of work on regionalisation,
there was a break in the Poznań centre which
lasted until the first decade of the 21st cen-
tury. In 2013, D. Łowicki and A. Mizgajski
published an article in which they called for
the typology of physico-geographical regions
and the verification of the mesoregion bound-
aries as identified by J. Kondracki on the
basis of the structure of the land cover and
the changes that had occurred. They stated
that mesoregions distinguished on the basis
of criteria applied by J. Kondracki do not fully
reflect the structure of the land cover. They
assessed that the land cover may be one
of the representative features in regional
studies. In connection with the landscape
audit prepared in the Poznań centre over the
most recent period, the team composed of:
A. Macias, S. Bródka and W. Piniarski from
the Department of the Landscape Ecology
at the Adam Mickiewicz University developed
a completely new and original subdivision
of Wielkopolska into microregions by apply-
ing an inductive (bottom-up) approach, i.e.
starting from uniform physico-geographical
units, through microregions, and ending with
mesoregions. The starting point was a digital
database of individual components of the
natural environment and the criteria: geologi-
cal structure, origin-related types of terrain
relief, downslopes, the first groundwater lev-
el, origin-related types of soil, land cover and
potential vegetation habitats.
The area of the contemporary Kujawsko-
-Pomorskie Voivodship (or at least signifi-
cant sections of it) was subject to different
physico-geographical regionalisations per-
formed by authors from various centres.
These works were carried out with the use
of different methods and at different scales.
Apart from the work of J. Kondracki which
covered the entire territory of Poland, the
work of R. Galon (1931, 1934, 1947, 1973,
1984), B. Krygowski (1956, 1961), A. Krażew-
ska (1963), T. Bartkowski (1970a), J. Szczep-
kowski (1977), T. Gacki and J. Szukalski
(1982), R. Dysarz (1996) and the recent work
of T. Giętkowski (2008) deserve special atten-
tion. Over the past twenty years, the issues
of the regionalisation of this area were main-
ly dealt with at the Nicolaus Copernicus Uni-
versity in Toruń. The work of L. Andrzejewski
and R. Kot (2006) classified different subdivi-
sions into regions of similar rank in the vicin-
ity of Toruń, which reflected the difficulties
in determining boundaries and the ambigu-
ity of the subdivision into regions, even in the
case of the application of the same (at least
formal) criteria. The methodological aspects
and examples of the verification of the bound-
aries of valley lowland areas were presented
by R. Kot (2008, 2009). New proposals for the
regional boundaries for selected areas of the
last glaciation of the Polish Lowlands were
shown through examples in the Iława Lake-
land, the Masurian Lakeland and the Wiel-
kopolska-Kujawy Lakeland (Kot 2011). The
regionalisation work was intensified thanks
to the preparation of the Internet Atlas of the
Kujawsko-Pomorskie Province (Internetowy
Atlas Województwa Kujawsko-Pomorskiego
– IAWKP). For the purpose of the IAWKP, the
typological and regional classification was
carried out for the voivodship at the general
and overview scale. The assumptions adopt-
ed and procedures were based on the meth-
odology and the previous division made by J.
Kondracki (1998) and thematic maps pre-
pared for the purposes of the IAWKP at simi-
lar scales enabled the preparation of digi-
tal maps of physico-geographical regions
at the 1:1,000,000 and 1:500,000 scales
(Kot 2015a, b, c). The maps that were
developed were also published in printed
form (Kot 2015d, e, f). The methodology
153Physico-geographical mesoregions of Poland: Verification and adjustment of boundaries…
Geographia Polonica 2018, 91, 2, pp. 143-170
of the physico-geographical classification
of the entire Kujawsko-Pomorskie Voivodship
was discussed in detail in the work of R. Kot
(2016). In physico-geographical regionalisa-
tions, the criteria for distinguishing the phys-
ico-geographical macroregions included the
genesis of the terrain relief and the geologi-
cal structure taken into account in subprov-
inces (Kot 2015a, 2016). Physico- geographical
mesoregions were distinguished on the basis
of the recognised detailed genesis of the ter-
rain relief and lithology (lakeland, outwash
plains, covered with forests), as well as mor-
phometric traits (valley, plain) or the land-
scape structure (Kot 2016). A separate work
(Kot 2017a) was dedicated to the characteris-
tics of 25 physico-geographical mesoregions
distinguished within the Kujawsko-Pomorskie
Voivodship. The most recent projects at the
Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń were
focused on the regionalisation of river valleys
and ice marginal valleys (Urstromtäler), con-
ducted at very detailed scales (Kot 2017b).
As a result, a new mesoregion was distin-
guished within the framework of the frag-
ment of the Toruń-Eberswalde Ice Marginal
Valley (Kot 2017b).
In addition to different versions of the most
famous physico-geographical regionalisation
using the decimal system developed by J. Kon-
dracki, the entire Pomerania or its smaller
parts has been subdivided into regions many
times. In their overview article, M. Kistowski
and J. Szydłowski (2018) listed 31 most impor-
tant publications which present 24 regional
physico-geographical divisions covering
Gdańsk Pomerania, carried out in the 20th
and 21st centuries. The regionalisations listed
were developed by a total of 19 authors from
various academic centres and in only 7 cases
concerned the division of the entire terri-
tory of Poland (in different national borders),
whereas the other work covered different
parts of Pomerania. A significant part of the
older work was carried out by B. Augustowski
(1969, 1977, 1979), T. Gacki and J. Szukalski
(Gacki & Szukalski 1979, 1982), and M. Prze-
woźniak (1985, 1993) and researchers in the
Gdańsk geographical centre cooperating
with them, initially at the Pedagogical Univer-
sity, and then at the University of Gdańsk.
Despite a significant number of pieces
of regionalisation work, the only comprehen-
sive regional division of Pomerania (devel-
oped to the level of a physico-geographical
mesoregion) was made by B. Augustowski
(1977). The area of the Gdańsk Voivodship
using the 1975-98 boundaries constitutes
the largest continuous part of Pomerania for
which regionalisation was developed to the
microregion level (Przewoźniak 1985). Oth-
er work covering smaller parts of the area
focused on the coastal and lakeland regions,
most representative of Pomerania.
At the Gdańsk centre, the most dynamic
development of the work on regionalisation
took place between 1965 and 1985. The
period from the beginning of the 1990s until
the present was characterised by stagnation;
individual investigations copied earlier work
or made only small corrections to boundaries.
Only the work of M. Przewoźniak (1993) cov-
ering 5 seaside voivodships and the 7 voivod-
ships adjacent to them deserves to be remem-
bered from this period. In order to distinguish
macroregions and mesoregions, the Author
used a relatively broad set of criteria which
included features of the relief and land cover
as well as the lithology of surface sediments
and origin-related types of soil. Another pub-
lication from this period is the work on the
Starogard Lakeland (Rolka 1996), which used
microregions previously distinguished by oth-
er authors. However, the units resulting from
this classification raise some questions due
to the lack of a list of delimitation criteria.
Since 2013, there has been a renewed
interest in regionalisation issues at the Univer-
sity of Gdańsk, which is reflected in the work
of a methodological character carried out
by J. Szydłowski (2013) (Kistowski & Sz ydłowski
2014). The purpose of these research studies
was to develop and test the inductive method
of physico-geographical regionalisation with
the use of GIS software. New boundaries
of meso- and microregions were proposed
on the basis of the analysis of geocomplex-
es distinguished in five research fields with
154 Jerzy Solon et al.
Geographia Polonica 2018, 91, 2, pp. 143-170
an area of 25 km x 25 km in which five crite-
ria were applied: terrain relief (downslopes),
lithology of surface sediments, depth of the
first groundwater level, origin-related types
of soil and land cover. The studies confirmed
the usefulness of the GIS software for the pur-
poses of the regionalisation, although at the
same time the inductive method proved to be
very laborious at the level of work detail that
can be anticipated when working at a scale
of approximately 1:50,000.
The previous proposals for the regional
division of Pomerania, carried out in different
periods and on the basis of similar but not
identical criteria, produced clearly different
boundaries, even in the case of mesoregions
which appear to have a clear identity. This for
example applies to the Kashubian Lakeland.
Therefore, this area was chosen for a detailed
analysis by M. Kistowski and J. Szydłowski
(2015). Both the delimitation of the region
and the division into microregions were per-
formed by the inductive method on the basis
of the analysis of the terrain relief (processing
of the Digital Terrain Model into hypsometry,
downslopes and a topographic wetness index)
as well as the lithology of surface sediments
supplemented by information about the water
network (Kistowski 2018). Nevertheless, the
works also used results from previous analy-
ses involving the inductive approach.
The common feature of studies carried out
over recent years at the University of Gdańsk,
in a similar manner to studies on Pomerania
carried out in other centres, is the applica-
tion of GIS software during the delimitation
of regions or at least in order to visualise and
analyse the units distinguished. The work
of T. Giętkowski (2008), for example, con-
cerned the boundaries of the Tuchola Forest
mesoregions, and resulted in the identifica-
tion – against the background of previously
performed regionalisation – of the original
boundaries on the basis of the analysis of the
terrain relief (processing of the Digital Ter-
rain Model into maps of downslopes, slope
exposure, denivelation), lithology of surface
sediments and elements of the water network
and land cover.
In Western Pomerania, at the Szczecin
centre (West Pomeranian University of Tech-
nology), the physico-geographical region-
alisation did not constitute an important
direction of studies. Over recent years, it was
emphasised that – at least on young glacial
areas – the contemporary landscape matrix
(expressed in categories of land cover) may
be a useful criterion for the verification of the
boundaries of physico-geographical units
of different rank. At the same time, it was
particularly indicated that the clear change
of the landscape matrix within the mesore-
gion may suggest the purposefulness of anal-
yses, confirming the correctness of bounda-
ries or indicating the possible necessity
of correcting their selected parts (Pieńkowski
& Podlasiński 2017).
The above review shows that, after
many years of stagnation, there has been
a renewed interest in the issues of regionali-
sation in recent years in most geographical
centres in Poland. Numerous studies have
been carried out at the regional level, discus-
sion took place on the theory and methodol-
ogy of regionalisation and a team of special-
ists was formed. Their experience enabled
this work to be carried out.
New regionalisation:
Approaches and Data
According to J. Kondracki (1977), the follow-
ing factors play a crucial role in distinguish-
ing macroregions: geographical location,
character and origin of the terrain relief and
lithological diversity. He adopted the same
criteria – but at a more detailed level – to dis-
tinguish mesoregions. This set of criteria, basi-
cally acceptable for determining boundaries
at overview scales (1:300,000 – 1:500,000)
is too general and ambiguous when it comes
to delimitation of mesoregions at a detailed
scale (e.g. 1:50,000). It results in the occur-
rence of significantly different interpretations
concerning the boundaries. The differing
results of the regionalisation may be con-
nected to the attaching of great importance
to individual geomorphological features
155Physico-geographical mesoregions of Poland: Verification and adjustment of boundaries…
Geographia Polonica 2018, 91, 2, pp. 143-170
(morphological, morphometric, morphoge-
netic, morphochronological) and lithologi-
cal features (mainly stratigraphic, but also
mineralogical and petrographic). They may
be also connected with the necessity, intui-
tively accepted by researchers, of dealing
with these features in a different way in rela-
tion to mountain, upland and lowland regions.
In order to minimise the possibility
of diverging interpretations within a multi-
person team performing the study, several
additional conventions and assumptions were
arbitrarily adopted. First of all, it was gener-
ally agreed in accordance with works of Prof.
J. Kondracki that the distinguishing of a given
area as a mesoregion is determined mainly
by the morphogenetic – geomorphological
and geological – tectonic features in its sur-
face layers (to a depth of 10-20 metres, rarely
deeper), which is reflected in the relief of the
ground surface and significantly influences
the functioning of the area. In order for spa-
tial units to be distinguished as mesoregions,
they must be characterised by a compact-
ness of geometry and similarity of morpho-
logical and morphometric features in their
individual parts (including also the repeat-
ability of their landforms and their origin
background).
In the case of those areas with the high-
est geomorphological-geological diver-
sity and largest collection of co-occurring
endo- and exogenetic effects, i.e. in the case
of uplands and mountains, as the key aspect
of physico-geographical regionalisation, the
boundaries of those landforms connected
with fold and fault tectonics producing struc-
tural relief were accepted. The studies took
into account those boundaries which have
an impact on the current structure and func-
tioning of the landscape and which occur
on the surface or at a sufficiently shallow
depth to have this impact. Furthermore, the
morphogenetic diversity connected with exo-
origin was assessed which to a great extent
is responsible for the contemporary character
of the relief. Finally, the diversity of morpho-
metric and morphological features, includ-
ing mountain ridges, denivelation, and land
slopes, was taken into account. Stratigraphy
considers stratigraphic features, in the origin-
related context, as additionally connected
with morphogenesis and morphochronology
and lithographic features were treated in this
context.
In lowland areas two environmental fea-
tures: the geological structure and terrain
relief, were the main criteria of the division.
In relation to the geological structure, the
leading feature was the lithology (composi-
tion) of surface sediments. In relation to ter-
rain relief, the leading feature was provided
by downslopes resulting from the spatial
distribution of altitude expressed on a hypso-
metric map. At the same time, the studies
took into account the character of the mosaic
of the following landforms: concave features
such as valleys, ribbon and basin landforms
(frequently filled with lake water or directly
drained by streams) and convex features
which include accumulative landforms of dif-
ferent origin (e.g. glacial, aeolian and denuda-
tional). The above characteristics were simul-
taneously related to the morphogenesis and
morphochronology of terrain. In some cases,
where there were no significant morphoge-
netic differences, supplementary data which
concerned the distribution of surface waters,
the depth of the first groundwater level and
types of soil were used for the delimitation
of mesoregions.
The regional diversity of the extension
of the last glaciation in Poland was also
considered to be crucial since it influenced
the changeability of the relief and the qual-
ity of bedrock and because these allow for
inclusion of morphogenetic and morpho-
chronological criteria. It was assumed that
in the case of the occurrence of many stages
of extension of the last glaciations in close
proximity, the region may be characterised
by the presence of forms typical of marginal
zones of different extents of the glaciation
(e.g. in north-eastern Poland), contrary to the
western part of the country where there was
significant advance of the glaciated areas.
In the case of river valleys, the upper
edge of the valleys was used – by convention
156 Jerzy Solon et al.
Geographia Polonica 2018, 91, 2, pp. 143-170
– to determine the boundaries, although with-
out taking into account side valleys cut into
the edge area.
In the case of proposals for the division
of a large mesoregion into smaller parts, the
internal diversity of the newly distinguished
units was analysed and compared with the
diversity between mesoregions with similar
geomorphological features.
Despite adopting more precise criteria for
determining the boundaries between mes-
oregions, the researchers encountered cases
causing a lot of difficulties in interpretation.
This was not only a result of the quality of the
available materials, but also from the occur-
rence of wide transition zones between well
distinguished areas and a lack of compat-
ibility between the changeability of the lithol-
ogy, genesis and vertical layout of the terrain.
In such cases, the variation in the relief and
the character of soil dominant on the surface
were the criteria most frequently used in deci-
sion making.
All persons and teams working on the
regionalisation used the following basic
materials: (a) 1:50,000 topographic map
of Poland (Head Office of Geodesy and Car-
tography), (b) 1:10,000 map of the hydro-
graphic division of Poland (Institute of Mete-
orology and Water Management), (c) Digital
Terrain Model (Head Office of Geodesy and
Cartography) produced on the basis of data
from the ISOK (IT system of the Country’s
Protection Against Extreme Harazds) Project
which had a value of average altitude error
not exceeding 0.2 m in the ARC/INFO ASCII
GRID format. If there was no digital model
of the terrain relief of the above parameters,
the studies used data from the LPIS Project
with a value of average altitude error fall-
ing between 0.2 – 2.0 m in the ESRI TIN
format, (d) 1:50,000 Detailed Geological
Map of Poland (Polish Geological Institute
– National Research Institute), (e) 1:50,000
Lithogenetic Map of Poland (Polish Geological
Institute – National Research Institute).
In addition to the general set of materials,
all researchers used cartographic materials
and descriptive geological, geomorphological
and soil materials referring to individual
regions and carried out at different scales,
numerous detailed geomorphological publi-
cations (including works concerning the more
accurate description of the boundaries of the
individual stages of glaciation and the identi-
fication of the character and genesis of geo-
morphological landforms), as well as the
results of microregionalisation work previ-
ously carried out, largely unpublished, which
belonged to individual authors and centres.
New regionalisation: Results
The final version of the proposed modifica-
tion of the physico-geographical mesoregions
of Poland is shown on a separate map, insert-
ed into the paper2.
All the changes introduced in the division
of Poland into physico-geographical mesore-
gions can be grouped in five categories: (a)
the division of a mesoregion into two or more
new mesoregions; (b) distinguishing a new
mesoregion at the border of two previously
existing mesoregions; (c) combination of mes-
oregions into a new one; (d) a clear change
of the mesoregion area; (e) more precise
delineation of the mesoregion’s boundaries
without a significant change in its area.
A good example of division into two
or more new mesoregions is the Poznań
Lakeland (315.51), which currently is treated
as three mesoregions: the Poznań Lakeland
(315.51) in a narrow sense, the Nowy Tomyśl
Plain (315.50) and the Grodzisk Heights
(315.59) (Fig. 1A). The division into three sec-
tions results from clear geomorphological
differences. The northern part (Poznań Lake-
land in a narrow sense) is of typical lakeland
character, whereas the western part (Nowy
Tomyśl Plain) is a distinctive outwash plain.
The south-eastern part (Grodzisk Heights) is,
on the other hand, devoid of lakes.
The regionalisation presented is char-
acterised by the consistent marking of nar-
rower sections of gorge (gap) character
2 Digital version of the map in ESRI shp format
is available on the Geographia Polonica home page.
157Physico-geographical mesoregions of Poland: Verification and adjustment of boundaries…
Geographia Polonica 2018, 91, 2, pp. 143-170
and wider sections of basin character in the
largest Polish river valleys. According to this
scheme, a new mesoregion (315.37), the
Nieszawa Gap of the Vistula River, was dis-
tinguished in the Vistula River valley at the
border between two previously distinguished
mesoregions (Fig. 1B). Similarly a new gorge
section, the Racibórz Gate (318.50), was pro-
posed in the Odra valley.
One of the changes introduced concerns
the combination of two functioning and
neighbouring mesoregions into one mesore-
gion. Such a situation occurred in the case
of the Kodeń Plain (845.12) and the Parczew
Plain (845.13). It was proposed to form one
mesoregion – the Parczew-Kodeń Heights
(845.12), of the two combined and slightly
increased by parts of neighbouring regions:
the Łomazy Depression (845.11) and the
Sosnowica Depression (845.14). They were
combined on the basis of the results of new
research confirming the uniform character
of the entire area (Fig. 1C).
Moreover, a portion of the mesoregion
changes resulted from significant inclusions
or exclusions of parts of areas from neigh-
bouring regions. The change in the extent
of the following mesoregions in the Lublin
region may serve as an example: the Kałuszyn
Heights (318.92) and the Węgrów Depression
(318.93). On the basis of results of recent geo-
morphological studies, it was proposed to sig-
nificantly increase the area of the Kałuszyn
Heights, whereas the neighbouring Węgrów
Depression region was significantly narrowed
(Fig. 1D).
In the case of most of the mesoregions,
previously distinguished by J. Kondracki, the
Figure 1 Main categories of mesoregion change:
A) division of an existing mesoregion into three
new ones; B) a new mesoregion at the border
of two previously existing mesoregions; C) com-
bining two mesoregions into one with modified
characteristics; D) significant changes in mes-
oregion extent; E) more accurate adjustment
of boundaries based on detailed knowledge
on the extents of morphogenetic units.
158 Jerzy Solon et al.
Geographia Polonica 2018, 91, 2, pp. 143-170
boundaries were moved to a lesser extent,
which resulted from these regions being more
accurately determined at a 1:50,000 scale.
This is connected with the adjustment
of regions’ boundaries to take account of the
more detailed extents of morphogenetic
units, generally at their erosive borders (slope
upper edge) in the case of river valleys and
fluvioglacial forms and at their structural
– denudational borders in the case of the
extents of upland and mountain areas. The
extent of the Płońsk Heights (318.61), whose
approximate boundaries seen in the region-
alisation of J. Kondracki were made more
specific at 1:50,000 scale (Fig. 1E), was pre-
sented as an example.
The largest changes in the sizes and
shapes of mesoregions were made in the fol-
lowing areas (Fig. 2):
the area of the Kłodzko Basin, where
the creation of the Upper Nysa Graben
(332.55) mesoregion was proposed, which
is clearly distinguishable from the remain-
ing part of the Kłodzko Basin mesoregion.
The Upper Nysa Graben is a latitudinal
furrow with clear boundaries to the east
and the west, with tectonic thresholds
of up to 500 metres. The new Kłodzko
Basin mesoregion is a compact depres-
sion at the confluence of four rivers: the
Nysa Kłodzka, the Ścinawka, the Bystrzyca
Dusznicka and the Biała Lądecka, with
unclear borders with neighbouring moun-
tain ranges, even with bottom and qua-
ternary sediments. Moreover, significant
changes were proposed in the region
of the Orlickie Mountains, the Bystrzyckie
Mountains and the Stołowe Mountains
as a result of attaching a significant part
of the existing Orlickie Foothills mesore-
gion to these regions.
the area connected with the upper section
of the Odra River, concerning the follow-
ing existing mesoregions: the Racibórz
Basin (318.59), the Wrocław Ice Marginal
Valley (318.52), the Głubczyce Plateau
(318.58), the Rybnik Plateau (341.15), the
Opole Plain (318.57) and the Niemodlin
Plain (318.55). It is proposed to introduce
spatial changes in the region of the above
Figure 2 Areas which changed allocation to mesoregions (comparison of the actual proposal with the
version of Kondracki 2000)
159Physico-geographical mesoregions of Poland: Verification and adjustment of boundaries…
Geographia Polonica 2018, 91, 2, pp. 143-170
mentioned mesoregions which take into
account the fact that they belong to geo-
morphological units of higher rank, as well
as the structure of their bedrock and their
relief development. It is proposed to com-
bine part of the Wrocław Ice Marginal
Valley with the neighbouring Opole Hum-
mock and to include this hummock in the
Opole Plain. Moreover, it is proposed
to divide the Opole Plain into the western
part under the same name and the east-
ern part under the name of Upper Mała
Panew Depression (341.28). It is also pro-
posed to move the western boundaries
of the Opole Plain to the Stobrawa valley.
the area connected to the Bydgoszcz
– Płock section of the Vistula Valley, the
Noteć River in the region of Nakło and the
area of Kujawy, where it was proposed
to introduce significant changes in the
extents of individual mesoregions, as well
as the creation of a new mesoregion of the
Nieszawa Gap of the Vistula River (315.37).
It is a clearly distinguishable section of the
valley between the Toruń Basin and the
Płock Basin. The changed geometry of the
Kuyavian mesoregions is justified by spa-
tial geomorphological systems. Numerous
changes in the extents of the: Chełmno
Lakeland, Brodnica Lakeland and Dobrzyń
Lakeland mesoregions are connected with
detailed data on the structure and genesis
of the bedrock in these regions.
the area of the western part of the Sile-
sian-Kraków Upland, where significant
changes were proposed in the areas
of many mesoregions, especially in the
area of the Katowice Upland, the Racibórz
Gate and the Tarnowskie Góry Hummock.
Changes of the geological structure,
frequently resulting in changes of the
relief, were used as the main criteria for
the modifications.
the area of the Western Carpathians,
where new mesoregions were created.
Their relief differs from the relief in other
existing areas, for example in the Żywiec
Beskid Mts, in the Tatra and sub-Tatra
regions, and in the Sącz Beskid Mts.
areas of existing large mesoregions: the
Poznań Lakeland (315.51), the Olsztyn
Lakeland (842.81) and the Iława Lakeland
(314.90) as well as the Krajna Lakeland
(314.69). In the case of the first 3 regions,
it was proposed to divide each of them
into 3 new mesoregions, and the Krajna
Lakeland into 2 mesoregions.
Other changes in the mesoregions are
local and concern one or two neighbouring
regions, for example in the valley of the Pilica
river, the Kozienice Plain, the Jasło-Krosno
Basin, the valley of the mid Bug, and the
coastal zone of the Baltic Sea.
In general, almost 69.5 thousand km2
(approx. 22% of the area of Poland) changed
allocation to their mesoregion, and over
17 thousand km2 of this area was due to the
establishment of quite new mesoregions
(Fig. 2).
The verification resulted in an increase
in the number of mesoregions from
316 to 344 and in changes in the spatial and
geometric characteristics of mesoregions
(Tab. 1, Fig. 3). The average area of a mesore-
gion decreased from 986.9 km2 to 907.5 km2.
In the case of almost 16% of mesoregions
their area decreased by more than 25%. Small
changes (in the range from -5 to 5%) occurred
in the case of approx. 20% of the total num-
ber of mesoregions, while an increase in area
greater than 25% occurred in almost 18%
of mesoregions.
Changes in the area of mesoregions
resulted in the displacement of the cen-
troids of the regions. The average shift was
4362 m with a minimum of 54 m and maxi-
mal value of 31,680 m. Generally changes
were rather small: for 10% of mesoregions
– less than 1 km, while for 40% shifts were
in the range of 1-3 km. It is worth underlin-
ing that large displacements, above 10 km,
occurred in only 9% of mesoregions. Those
changes were mainly due to division of big
mesoregions into smaller ones.
As a result of the more precise delinea-
tion of the boundaries of the mesoregions the
values of indicators of boundary complexity
clearly increased. The Mean Shape Index
160 Jerzy Solon et al.
Geographia Polonica 2018, 91, 2, pp. 143-170
increased from 1.641 to 1.980, Mean Frac-
tal Dimension from 1.17 to 1.19, and Mean
Perimeter/Area Ratio from 2.68 to 3.50. But
those changes were not unidirectional. For
some mesoregions complexity decreased
(14% of mesoregions according to Shape
Index, and 21% according to the Perimeter/
Area Ratio). The greatest (more than 30%
of previous values) increase in boundary
complexity occurred in the case of 29%
of mesoregions (according to SI changes) and
35% (according to PAR values).
Final remarks
The division into mesoregions, shown in this
article, is not a simple compilation of the pre-
viously published suggestions, but it forms
Table 1. Main changes of mesoregions’ geometric properties
Variable Present study Kondracki (2000)
Number of mesoregions 344 316
Mesoregion Area – mean (ha) 90,750 98,687
Mesoregion Area – min (ha) 605 1,523
Mesoregion Area – max (ha) 377,854 431,834
Shape Index – mean 1.980 1.641
Shape Index – min 1.234 1.071
Shape Index – max 10.004 4.566
Perimeter/Area Ratio – mean 3.50 2.68
Perimeter/Area Ratio – min 1.00 0.60
Perimeter/Area Ratio – max 34.80 23.20
Fractal Dimension – mean 1.19 1.17
Fractal Dimension – min 1.14 1.12
Fractal Dimension – max 1.37 1.30
0
5
10
15
20
25
0-1 1-2 2-3 3-4 4-5 5-10 10-32
Share (%)
Cent roid dis plac ement (km)
B
0
5
10
15
20
25
< -50 -5 0 - (-25) -25 - (-5) -5 - 5 5 - 25 25 - 5 0 > 50
Share (%)
Are a c hange s (%)
0
5
10
15
20
25
< -10 -10 - 0 0 - 10 10 - 20 20 - 30 30 - 40 >40
Share (%)
Shape Index changes (%)
0
5
10
15
20
25
< -10 -10 - 0 0 - 10 10 - 20 20 - 30 30 - 40 >40
Share (%)
Per imeter /Area Ratio changes (%)
A
CD
Figure 3 Values of the chosen indicators characterising the spatial pattern of the mesoregions
161Physico-geographical mesoregions of Poland: Verification and adjustment of boundaries…
Geographia Polonica 2018, 91, 2, pp. 143-170
a piece of work, which can be characterised
as new, creatively developing, and reconciling
the proposals of the majority of national spe-
cialists dealing with such subject matters. Yet,
it is not an entirely closed piece of research,
but only work that illustrates the improve-
ment of knowledge in the sphere of the
environment and the development of views
in a specific period of time. Issues that will
require further detailed work in the future
were identified during the completion of the
work. Among such issues, special attention
must be paid to the problem of the identifica-
tion and appropriate description of cross-bor-
der regional units, which cover a very small
area in Poland, and whose area is also situ-
ated on the other side of borders. Initially, one
should indicate the area of the San-Dniester
Plateau, which covers about 88 km² in Poland
but extends much further in Ukraine, cover-
ing hundreds of square kilometres there.
Some of the regions on the border between
Poland and Slovakia as well as Poland and
Czechia also require additional agreements.
Yet another issue requiring further analy-
sis in the future relates to the regionalisation
of transition zones between the Polish low-
lands, uplands and mountains. These studies
cause many significant problems in their inter-
pretation. The key issue is the interpretation
of extent of occurrence of ridges and depres-
sions between ridges. In the southern part
of the uplands, they are distinct due to clear
tectonics and a relatively low influence of gla-
cial, fluvioglacial and fluvial processes slightly
changing older relief. In the north-eastern
part of the uplands, the structural relief has
been radically transformed due to the ice
sheets of the old glaciations. Glacial sedi-
ments have covered depressions between
ridges and partly built up the outcrops of the
formations creating them. The river network
was deformed, conditioned by the structural
relief, which in the past used depressions
between ridges to discharge water. In some
sections, the upper reaches of river valleys
do not use former depressions but cross them
along gorges. The necessity of defining this
section of the boundary between the uplands
and lowlands along ridges with Triassic and
Jurassic outcrops is not controversial, but the
detailed delineation still should be subject
to further studies.
Moreover, efforts to correct J. Kondracki’s
regionalisation carried out by representatives
of different centres from southern and central
Poland revealed numerous, sometimes diver-
gent views on the boundaries of physico-geo-
graphical units. It resulted, to a great extent,
from the research traditions of a given cen-
tre (e.g. the traditions of the Kraków, Silesian
or Łódź centres). Most researchers used the
same basic criteria for distinguishing a given
unit, but the results of boundary determina-
tion were initially different. It resulted from
different approaches to the importance and
rank of individual criteria, as well as the
change of their primacy and relative weight
in different parts of the area in question. One
example of such a situation was the adop-
tion of overriding structural-tectonic criteria
in the determination of physico-geographical
unit boundaries in the southern part of the
Kraków-Częstochowa Upland, but with the
use of geomorphological (quaternary) crite-
ria in the central and northern parts of this
Upland. A final clarification and meshing
together of different opinions gave the joint
proposal for regionalisation for this area,
but it is still open to some questions dealing
with “objectivity” and the “weight” of quali-
tative and quantitative differences between
adjacent regions, as well as the width of the
boundaries between them.
Similar, although not the same problems
arose in the regionalisation of middle and
northern Poland, on the transition zones
between areas subjected to the influence
of different phases of glaciation. The good
example is the boundary between the Siedlce
Heights (hummocky upland moraine) and the
Łuków Plain (outwash plain) – one of areas
that is problematic due to small downslopes.
On the basis of the latest detailed geologi-
cal and geomorphological research, it was
proposed to define its boundaries along the
southernmost consistent marginal forms
of the final or retreat stop of the ice sheet
162 Jerzy Solon et al.
Geographia Polonica 2018, 91, 2, pp. 143-170
of the Warta glaciation. Following this pro-
posal and in relation to the idea of J. Kon-
dracki, the Siedlce Upland may be defined
as a mesoregion generally formed as a result
of the disappearance of the ice sheet, and the
Łuków Plain as a mesoregion formed mainly
as a result of the outflow of snowmelt water.
The version of the regionalisation pre-
sented here has made progress in our under-
standing of differentiation in the natural
environment in comparison with previous
versions, and has simultaneously opened the
field for new rounds of methodical discussions
on more sophisticated and multidimensional
approaches to the distinguishing and charac-
terisation of spatial units of different ranks.
Acknowledgements
The first initial versions of the verification
of the mesoregion boundaries in the phys-
ico-geographical division of J. Kondracki
were commissioned by the General Direc-
torate for Environmental Protection within
the scope of the implementation of the pro-
ject financed by the National Fund for Envi-
ronmental Protection and Water Manage-
ment, under the name: “the Implementation
of tasks resulting from the provisions of the
European Landscape Convention drawn
up in Florence on 20 October 2000” (agree-
ment no. n349/2015/Wn50/NE-WM/D
of 13/08/2015). Further substantive and edi-
torial work of a much wider team of authors
was carried out as a fully independent initia-
tive supported only organisationally by the
General Directorate for Environmental Pro-
tection (which also in a small part supported
the preparation of the manuscript for print).
In addition to the team of authors, the
final result of the verification of mesoregion
boundaries was influenced by a group of per-
sons who took part in discussions on the map
at different stages of its elaboration, verified
the alignment of sections of the boundaries,
shared their opinions and knowledge, made
available the results of unpublished works
or helped in solving GIS problems. In particu-
lar, the following persons from the individual
centres should be listed: Sylwia BRÓDKA and
Witold PINIARSKI (Adam Mickiewicz Univer-
sity, Faculty of Geographical and Geological
Sciences), Krystyna GERMAN (Jagiellonian
University, Institute of Geography and Spa-
tial Management), Dominika KOWALSKA-
-JAMROŻEK (The Jan Kochanowski University
in Kielce, Department of Environment Protec-
tion and Environmental Development), Józef
SUPERSON and Marek TURCZYŃSKI (Maria
Curie-Skłodowska University, Faculty of Earth
Sciences and Spatial Management, Lublin),
Jerzy SZYDŁOWSKI (former doctoral student
at the University of Gdańsk).
Editors’ note:
Unless otherwise stated, the sources of tables and
figures are the authors’, on the basis of their own
research.
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http://rcin.org.pl
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843.33
318.94
315.33
314.51
318.64
842.86
314.71
843.37
314.45
318.86
315.56
314.74
512.41
318.53
318.19
843.35
318.67
318.63
315.58
318.65
318.72
318.61
512.49
842.87
318.57
842.82
842.83
318.83
315.57
315.53
315.42
315.11
313.33
342.33
318.95
314.91
513.64
315.16
318.56
318.82
513.71
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315.51
315.14
318.96
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313.54
843.34
315.35
314.69
314.64
318.98
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314.61
332.26
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843.38
843.32
318.73
841.59
318.81
318.78
512.48
318.58
315.59
343.17
313.43
342.34-35
318.75
318.71
315.55
317.74 318.84
342.12
318.62
314.46
343.15
314.67
332.14
314.63
343.18
318.17
318.42 318.11
314.41
314.52
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313.42
315.43
315.15
341.21
314.47
342.21
318.77
341.13
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313.32
318.22
318.76
318.16
314.73
314.43
522.12
318.92
343.22
513.63
522.11
513.62
342.22
314.44
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318.14
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Scale 1:2,000,000
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© Jerzy Solon, Jan Borzyszkowski (eds.)
© Geographia Polonica
© Institute of Geography and Spatial Organization,
Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, 2018
To cite: Solon J., Borzyszkowski J., Bidłasik M., Richling A., Badora K., Balon J., Brzezińska-Wójcik T., Chabudziński Ł., Dobrowolski R., Grzegorczyk I., Jodłowski M., Kistowski M.,
Kot R., Krąż P., Lechnio J., Macias A., Majchrowska A., Malinowska E., Migoń P., Myga-Piątek U., Nita J., Papińska E., Rodzik J., Strzyż M., Terpiłowski S., Ziaja W., 2018. Physico-
-geographical mesoregions of Poland: Veri cation and adjustment of boundaries on the basis of contemporary spatial data. Geographia Polonica, vol. 91, no. 2, pp. 143-170.
https://doi.org/10.7163/GPol.0115
MAP OF PHYSICO-GEOGRAPHICAL MESOREGIONS OF POLAND: MODIFIED VERSION OF J. KONDRACKI’S REGIONALISATION (map edited by Jerzy Solon and Jan Borzyszkowski)
3 Beyond -Alps Europ e
31 Central European Lowland
313 Southern Ba ltic Coastla nds
313.2-3 Szczecin Coastland
313.21 Uznam & Wolin Islands
313.2 2 Trzebi ató w Coast
313.23 Police Plain
313.24 Lower Odra R iver Valley
313.2 5 Golenió w Plain
313.26 Szczecin Heights
313.2 7 Bukow e Hills
313.2 8 Wełtyń Plain
313.31 P yr zyc e Pl ain
313.32 Nowo gar d Pla in
313.3 3 Gry ce Plain
313.4 Koszalin Coastland
313.41 S lov inc ian C oas t
313.42 Białogard Plai n
313.4 3 Słupsk Plain
313.44 Damnica He ights
313.4 5 Choc zewo Hei ght s
313.4 6 Reda -Łe ba Proglacial Valley
313.47 Koszalin Coast
313.5 Gdańsk Coastland
313.51 Cassubian Coastland
313.52 Hel Penis ula
313.5 3 Vist ula Spit
313.5 4 Żuławy Alluv ial Plain
313.5 5 Elbl ąg Heights
313.5 6 Warm ia Pl ain
313.57 Old Prus sian Coast
314-316 Southern Baltic La ke Districts
314.4 Western Pomerania L akeland
314.41 Myślibórz Lakeland
314.42 Choszczno Lakeland
314.4 3 Ińsko Lakeland
314.4 4 Łobez Heights
314.45 Drawsko Lakeland
314.46 Polanów Heights
314.47 Bytów Lakeland
314.5 Eastern Pomerania Lakeland
314.51 Cassubian Lakeland
314.52 Starogard Lakeland
314.6-7 Southern Pomerania Lakeland
314.61 Gor zów P lai n
314.62 Dobiegniew Lakeland
314.63 Drawa Plain
314.6 4 W ałcz Lakeland
314.65 W ałcz Plain
314.66 Szczecinek Lakeland
314.67 C har zy kow y Pl ain
314.68 Gwda River Valley
314.69 Northern Krajna Lakeland
314.71 Tuchol a For est
314.72 Brda River Valley
314.73 Świecie Upland
314.74 Southern Krajna Lakeland
314.8 Lower Vistula River Valley
314.81 Kwidz yn Va lley
314.82 G ru dzi ądz Basin
314.8 3 Ford on Va lley
314.9 Iława Lakeland
314.91 I ława Plain
314.92 Łasin Lakeland
314.93 Dzierzg oń-Morąg Lakeland
315.1 Chełmno-Dobrzyń Lakeland
315.11 C he łmno Lakeland
315.12 Brodnica Lakeland
315.13 D rwęca Rive r Valley
315.14 Dobr zy ń Lakeland
315.15 L uba wa Hu mmo ck
315.16 Urszulewo Pl ain
315.3 Toruń- Eberswalde Ice Ma rginal Valley
315.32 Frei enwalde Basin
315.3 3 G or zów B asi n
315.3 4 M idd le N ote ć River Valley
315.3 5 Tor uń Basin
315.3 6 P łock Basin
315.37 Nieszawa Gap of the Vis tula River
315.4 Lubuskie Lakeland
315.41 Lubuski Ga p of the Odra R iver
315.42 Łagów Lakeland
315.4 3 Tor zy m Plain
315.4 4 Z bąszynek Basin
315.5 Wielko polski e Lakeland
315.50 Nowy Tomyś