Can we be certain about future land use change in Europe? A multi-scenario, integrated-assessment analysis

I. P. Holman, Calum Brown, V. Janes, D. Sandars

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The global land system is facing unprecedented pressures from growing human populations and climatic change. Understanding the effects these pressures may have is necessary to designing land management strategies that ensure food security, ecosystem service provision and successful climate mitigation and adaptation. However, the number of complex, interacting effects involved makes any complete understanding very difficult to achieve. Nevertheless, the recent development of integrated modelling frameworks allows for the exploration of the co-development of human and natural systems under scenarios of global change, potentially illuminating the main drivers and processes in future land system change. Here, we use one such integrated modelling framework (the CLIMSAVE Integrated Assessment Platform) to investigate the range of projected outcomes in the European land system across climatic and socio-economic scenarios for the 2050s. We find substantial consistency in locations and types of change even under the most divergent conditions, with results suggesting that climate change alone will lead to a contraction in the agricultural and forest area within Europe, particularly in southern Europe. This is partly offset by the introduction of socioeconomic changes that change both the demand for agricultural production, through changing food demand and net imports, and the efficiency of agricultural production. Simulated extensification and abandonment in the Mediterranean region is driven by future decreases in the relative profitability of the agricultural sector in southern Europe, owing to decreased productivity as a consequence of increased heat and drought stress and reduced irrigation water availability. The very low likelihood (< 33% probability) that current land use proportions in many parts of Europe will remain unchanged suggests that future policy should seek to promote and support the multifunctional role of agriculture and forests in different European regions, rather than focussing on increased productivity as a route to agricultural and forestry viability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126–135
JournalAgricultural systems
Early online date9 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017


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