• A personal note on IGBP and the social sciences

    Humans are an integral component of the Earth system as conceptualised by IGBP. João Morais recalls key milestones in IGBP’s engagement with the social sciences and offers some words of advice for Future Earth.
  • IGBP and Earth observation:
    a co-evolution

    The iconic images of Earth beamed back by the earliest spacecraft helped to galvanise interest in our planet’s environment. The subsequent evolution and development of satellites for Earth observation has been intricately linked with that of IGBP and other global-change research programmes, write Jack Kaye and Cat Downy .

Are agricultural land-use models able to predict changes in land use intensity?

Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment (2000)
Lambin E F, Rounsevell M and Geist H (eds)
ISSN: 01678809
Doi: 10.1016/S0167-8809(00)00235-8
Vol 82; Issue 1-3; pp. 321-331

Land-use and land-cover change research needs to pay more attention to processes of land-cover modification, and especially to agricultural land intensification. The objective of this paper is to review the different modelling approaches that have been used in land-use/land-cover change research from the perspective of their utility for the study and prediction of changes in land-use intensification. After clarifying the main concepts used, the different modelling approaches that have been used to study land-use change are examined, case study evidence on processes and drivers of land-use intensification are discussed, and a conclusion is provided on the present ability to predict changes in land-use intensity. The analysis suggests there are differences in the capability of different modelling approaches to assess changing levels of intensification: dynamic, process-based simulation models appear to be better suited to predict changes in land-use intensity than empirical, stochastic or static optimisation models. However, some stochastic and optimisation methods may be useful in describing the decision-making processes that drive land management. Case study evidence highlight the uncertainties and surprises inherent in the processes of land-use intensification. This can both inform model development and reveal a wider range of possible futures than is evident from modelling alone. Case studies also highlight the importance of decision-making by land managers when facing a range of response options. Thus, the ability to model decision-making processes is probably more important in land-use intensification studies then the broad category of model used. For this reason, landscape change models operating at an aggregated level have not been used to predict intensification. In the future, an integrated approach to modelling - that is multidisciplinary and cross-sectoral combining elements of different modelling techniques - will probably best serve the objective of improving understanding of land-use change processes including intensification. This is because intensification is a function of the management of physical resources, within the context of the prevailing social and economic drivers. Some of the factors that should be considered when developing future land-use change models are: the geographic and socio-economic context of a particular study, the spatial scale and its influence on the modelling approach, temporal issues such as dynamic versus equilibrium models, thresholds and surprises associated with rapid changes, and system feedbacks. In industrialised regions, predicting land-use intensification requires a better handling of the links between the agriculture and forestry sectors to the energy sector, of technological innovation, and of the impact of agri-environment policies. For developing countries, better representation of urbanisation and its various impacts on land-use changes at rural-urban interfaces, of transport infrastructure and market change will be required. Given the impossibility of specific predictions of these driving forces, most of the modelling work will be aimed at scenario analysis.

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