The Carpathian region represents an ideal showcase of several land change theories and their implications for conservation because this region shares the long geo-political and socio-economic history of Eastern Europe while also being a biodiversity hotspot. With a long history of abrupt socio-economic and institutional shifts , the Carpathians exemplify how ecosystems may or may not be pushed into an alternative stable state following shocks such as the collapse of empires, world wars or the collapse of socialism. Furthermore, ecosystem changes may or may not experience time-lags in response to shocks , and over long time periods, historic land-use practices may produce land-use legacies that persist on the landscapes for decades or centuries. Here, we analyze the long-term drivers of land change and their land-use outcomes in the Carpathian region, with a particular focus on forests , agriculture and grasslands , and provide examples of how ecosystems respond to shocks using examples of alternative stable states, time-lags and land-use legacies . Understanding how and why land change patterns vary over time and space is important for balancing land-use decisions, especially in biodiverse regions with a high conservation value.