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Exploring subtle land use and land cover changes: A framework for future landscape studies

May 16, 2009

Land cover and land use changes can have a wide variety of ecological effects, including significant impacts on soils and water quality. In rural areas, even subtle changes in farming practices can affect landscape features and functions, and consequently the environment. Fine-scale analyses have to be performed to better understand the land cover change processes. At the same time, models of land cover change have to be developed in order to anticipate where changes are more likely to occur next. Such predictive information is essential to propose and implement sustainable and efficient environmental policies. Future landscape studies can provide a framework to forecast how land use and land cover changes is likely to react differently to subtle changes. This paper proposes a four step framework to forecast landscape futures at fine scales by coupling scenarios and landscape modelling approaches. This methodology has been tested on two contrasting agricultural landscapes located in the United States and France, to identify possible landscape changes based on forecasting and backcasting agriculture intensification scenarios. Both examples demonstrate that relatively subtle land cover and land use changes can have a large impact on future landscapes. Results highlight how such subtle changes have to be considered in term of quantity, location, and frequency of land use and land cover to appropriately assess environmental impacts on water pollution (France) and soil erosion (US). The results highlight opportunities for improvements in landscape modelling.

Publication Year 2010
Title Exploring subtle land use and land cover changes: A framework for future landscape studies
DOI 10.1007/s10980-009-9362-8
Authors Thomas Houet, Thomas Loveland, Laurence Hubert-Moy, Cedric Gaucherel, Darrell Napton, Christopher Barnes, Kristi Sayler
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Landscape Ecology
Index ID 70208542
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center