Simulating and delineating future land change trajectories across Europe

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Explorations of future land use change are important to understand potential conflicts between competing land uses, trade-offs associated with particular land change trajectories, and the effectiveness of policies to steer land systems into desirable states. Most model-based explorations and scenario studies focused on conversions in broad land use classes, but disregarded changes in land management or focused on individual sectors only.

Using the European Union (EU) as a case study, the researchers developed an approach to identifying typical combinations of land cover and management changes by combining the results of multimodel simulations in the agriculture and forest sectors for four scenarios from 2000 to 2040. The study visualised land change trajectories by mapping regional hotspots of change.

Land change trajectories differed in extent and spatial pattern across the EU and among scenarios, indicating trajectory-specific option spaces for alternative land system outcomes. In spite of the large variation in the area of change, similar hotspots of land change were observed among the scenarios. All scenarios indicate a stronger polarisation of land use in Europe, with a loss of multifunctional landscapes. The authors analysed locations subject to change by comparing location characteristics associated with certain land change trajectories.

Results indicate differences in the location conditions of different land change trajectories, with diverging impacts on ecosystem service provisioning. Policy and planning for future land use needs to account for the spatial variation of land change trajectories to achieve both overarching and location-specific targets.

Full reference: 

Stürck, J., Levers, C., van der Zanden, E., Schulp, C.J.E., Verkerk, P.J., Kuemmerle, T., Helming, J., Lotze-Campen, H., Tabeau, A., Popp, A., Schrammeijer, E., Verburg, P. 2015. Simulating and delineating future land change trajectories across EuropeRegional Environmental Change, 1-17.