Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences - Biogeography

Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences | Geography Department | Biogeography | News | Improving understanding of changes in land use intensity

Improving understanding of changes in land use intensity

Two new papers recently published in the journal Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability address existing knowledge gaps surrounding land use intensity. In the first study, Erb and co-authors review the disciplinary context of research on land use intensity, discuss conceptualizations of indicators to measure land use intensity, and propose a new, systemic framework for addressing land use intensity. The second study by Kuemmerle and co-authors review approaches to map land use intensity globally, summarize existing quantitative, spatially-explicit metrics, and outline challenges and concrete steps forward to better characterize land use intensity and changes therein at the global scale. Both papers emerge from a Global Land Project (GLP) synthesis effort and research carried out within the EU FP7 Integrated Research Project VOLANTE.

Land use change is recognized as one of the key drivers of global environmental change, affecting ecosystem functioning, the services ecosystem provide to humanity, and biodiversity. Yet, Land Change Science has so far mainly focused on land conversions such as deforestation, agricultural expansion, or urbanization. Much less attention has been paid to changes in land use intensity, which is unfortunate because sustainable intensification of existing land systems will likely be a key strategy to provide food, feed, fiber and bioenergy to a growing human population in the next decades while avoiding additional environmental degradation.

Two new papers recently published in the journal Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability and emerging from a Global Land Project (GLP) synthesis effort and research carried out within the EU FP7 Integrated Research Project VOLANTE address existing knowledge gaps surrounding land use intensity. Erb and co-authors review the disciplinary context of research on land use intensity, discuss conceptualizations of indicators to measure land use intensity, and propose a new, systemic framework for addressing land use intensity. Kuemmerle and co-authors review approaches to map land use intensity globally, summarize existing quantitative, spatially-explicit metrics, and outline challenges and concrete steps forward to better characterize land use intensity and changes therein at the global scale. Both papers also identify resarch priorities for improving our understanding of the drivers and spatial patterns of changes in land use intensity.

 

Conceptualizing land-use intensity measures

Karl-Heinz Erb,* Tobias Kümmerle,,Helmut Haberl, Martin Rudbeck Jepsen, Marcus Lindner, Daniel Müller,, Peter Verburg, Annette Reenberg

Abstract

Large knowledge gaps currently exist that limit our ability to understand and characterise dynamics and patterns of land-use intensity: in particular, a comprehensive conceptual framework and a system of measurement are lacking. This situation hampers the development of a sound understanding of the mechanisms, determinants, and constraints underlying changes in land-use intensity. On the basis of a review of approaches for studying land-use intensity, we propose a conceptual framework to quantify and analyse land-use intensity. This framework integrates three dimensions: (a) input intensity, (b) output intensity, and (c) the associated system-level impacts of land-based production (e.g. changes in carbon storage or biodiversity). The systematic development of indicators across these dimensions would provide opportunities for the systematic analyses of the trade-offs, synergies and opportunity costs of land-use intensification strategies.
 

Challenges and opportunities for mapping land-use intensity globally

Tobias Kuemmerle,* Stephan Estel, Karl-Heinz Erb, Helmut Haberl, Patrick Hostert, Thomas Kastner, Christian Levers, Marcus Lindner, Patrick Meyfroidt, Daniel Müller,, Christoph Plutzar, Anette Reenberg, Martin Rudbeck Jepsen, Peter Verburg, Hans Verkerk, Emma van der Zanden

Abstract

Future increases in land-based production will need to focus more on sustainably intensifying existing production systems. Unfortunately, our understanding of the global patterns of land use intensity is weak, partly because land use intensity is a complex, multidimensional term, and partly because we lack appropriate datasets to assess land use intensity across broad geographic extents. Here, we review the state of the art regarding approaches for mapping land use intensity and provide a comprehensive overview of available global-scale datasets on land use intensity. We also outline major challenges and opportunities for mapping land use intensity for cropland, grazing, and forestry systems, and identify key issues for future research