Mapping socio-economic scenarios of land cover change: A GIS method to enable ecosystem service modelling

We present a GIS method to interpret qualitatively expressed socio-economic scenarios in quantitative map-based terms. (i) We built scenarios using local stakeholders and experts to define how major land cover classes may change under different sets of drivers; (ii) we formalised these as spatially explicit rules, for example agriculture can only occur on certain soil types; (iii) we created a future land cover map which can then be used to model ecosystem services. We illustrate this for carbon storage in the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania using two scenarios: the first based on sustainable development, the second based on ‘business as usual’ with continued forestewoodland degradation and poor protection of existing forest reserves. Between 2000 and 2025 4% of carbon stocks were lost under the first scenario compared to a loss of 41% of carbon stocks under the second scenario. Quantifying the impacts of differing future scenarios using the method we document here will be important if payments for ecosystem services are to be used to change policy in order to maintain critical ecosystem services.