Land managers' behaviours modulate pathways to visions of future land systems

Calum Brown, Sascha Holzhauer, Marc Metzger, James Paterson, Mark Rounsevell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Attempts to influence the development of land systems are often based on detailed scenarios that constrain relevant factors, describe a range of divergent but plausible futures and identify potential pathways to visions of desirable conditions. However, a number of assumptions are usually made during this process, and one of the most substantial is that land managers display homogeneous, economically rational behaviour across space, time and scenarios. This assumption precludes the consideration of important behavioural effects and limits understanding of the feasibility of scenario-based pathways towards visions.

We use an agent-based land use model to examine broad forms of behavioural variation within defined scenarios in theoretical contexts. We relate model results to stakeholder-developed visions of desired future land systems in Europe, and so assess the scope for behavioural pathways towards these normative futures. We find that the achievability of visions is determined by internal inconsistencies, scenario conditions and the multifunctional potential of land uses, with a fundamental tension between large-scale land use productivity and small-scale diversity (i.e. land sparing and land sharing). Trading conditions affect this balance most strongly, and represent an obvious target for governance strategies concerned with achieving multifunctional land use. However, within specific circumstances behavioural effects are strong and diverse, and can accelerate, counteract or mitigate the impacts of other drivers. This suggests that visions for the land system should focus on trade-offs, identifying those that are least strong, most acceptable, and most susceptible to adjustment through behavioural or other influences.
Original languageEnglish
JournalRegional Environmental Change
Early online date24 Jun 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Jun 2016


  • Agent based modelling, scenario, climate change, land use, multifunctional, stakeholder engagement


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