Land-use change arising from rural land exchange: an agent-based simulation model

Martha M. Bakker, Shah Jamal Alam, Jerry Van Dijk, Mark D. A. Rounsevell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Land exchange can be a major factor driving land-use change in regions with high pressure on land, but is generally not incorporated in land-use change models. Here we present an agent-based model to simulate land-use change arising from land exchange between multiple agent types representing farmers, nature organizations, and estate owners.

The RULEX model (Rural Land EXchange) was calibrated and applied to a 300 km2 case study area in the east of the Netherlands. Decision rules about which actor will sell and buy land, as well as which specific land to buy or sell are based on historical observations, interviews, and choice experiments.


A reconstruction of land-use change for the period 2001–2009 demonstrates that RULEX reproduces most observed land-use trends and patterns. Given that RULEX simulates only one mechanism of land-use change, i.e. land exchange, it is conservative in simulating change.

With this model, we demonstrate the potential of incorporating land market processes in an agent-based, land-use change model. This supports understanding of land-use change that is brought about by ownership change, which is an important process in areas where pressure on land is high. The soundness of the process representation was corroborated by stakeholders within the study area. Land exchange models can be used to assess the impact of changes in climate, markets, and policy on land use change, and help to increase effectiveness of alternative land purchasing strategies by stakeholders or spatial planning policy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-286
JournalLandscape ecology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2015


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