A Land System Science meta-analysis suggests we underestimate intensive land uses in land use change dynamics

A meta-analysis of the Land System Science literature identified that small-scale land uses currently receive little attention in studies seeking to understand land use change dynamics. We conceptualised two ways in which small-scale land uses operate to indirectly drive more extensive land use change: 1) through modifying spatial landscape attributes and 2) through altering underlying forces driving the expansion of other land uses. We then propose the concept of ‘intensive land uses’, those that occupy a small proportion of the landscape but indirectly drive land use change dynamics through their operation. Our discussion highlights that, with the exception of roads, we currently underestimate the importance of intensive land uses in the literature and we illustrate this with a case study of a commonly disregarded intensive land use: mining. We conclude that the inclusion or exclusion of land uses from analyses should extend beyond quantifying their land use area and instead incorporate an understanding of how land uses operate within their regional context. Finally we present three future research opportunities to incorporate intensive land uses into analyses and models of land use change dynamics.

Read the full paper: Sonter, Barrett, Moran & Soares-Filho (2013) “A Land System Science meta-analysis suggests we underestimate intensive land uses in land use change dynamics”. Journal of Land Use Science. DOI: 10.1080/1747423X.2013.871356