Applying Occam's razor to global agricultural land use change

Kerstin Engström*, Mark D A Rounsevell, Dave Murray-Rust, Catherine Hardacre, Peter Alexander, Xufeng Cui, Paul I. Palmer, Almut Arneth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

We present a parsimonious agricultural land-use model that is designed to replicate global land-use change while allowing the exploration of uncertainties in input parameters. At the global scale, the modelled uncertainty range of agricultural land-use change covers observed land-use change. Spatial patterns of cropland change at the country level are simulated less satisfactorily, but temporal trends of cropland change in large agricultural nations were replicated by the model. A variance-based global sensitivity analysis showed that uncertainties in the input parameters representing to consumption preferences are important for changes in global agricultural areas. However, uncertainties in technological change had the largest effect on cereal yields and changes in global agricultural area. Uncertainties related to technological change in developing countries were most important for modelling the extent of cropland. The performance of the model suggests that highly generalised representations of socio-economic processes can be used to replicate global land-use change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)212-229
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironmental Modelling and Software
Early online date11 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Cereal yields
  • Global agricultural land-use
  • Parameter uncertainty
  • Parsimonious models
  • Sensitivity analysis


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