A coherent set of future land-use change scenarios for Europe

Abstract This paper presents a range of future, spatially explicit, land use change scenarios for the EU15, Norway and Switzerland based on an interpretation of the global storylines of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that are presented in the special report on emissions scenarios (SRES). The methodology is based on a qualitative interpretation of the SRES storylines for the European region, an estimation of the aggregate totals of land use change using various land use change models and the allocation of these aggregate quantities in space using spatially explicit rules. The spatial patterns are further downscaled from a resolution of 10 min to 250 m using statistical downscaling procedures. The scenarios include the major land use/land cover classes urban, cropland, grassland and forest land as well as introducing new land use classes such as bioenergy crops. The scenario changes are most striking for the agricultural land uses, with large area declines resulting from assumptions about future crop yield development with respect to changes in the demand for agricultural commodities. Abandoned agricultural land is a consequence of these assumptions. Increases in urban areas (arising from population and economic change) are similar for each scenario, but the spatial patterns are very different. This reflects alternative assumptions about urban development processes. Forest land areas increase in all scenarios, although such changes will occur slowly and largely reflect assumed policy objectives. The scenarios also consider changes in protected areas (for conservation or recreation goals) and how these might provide a break on future land use change. The approach to estimate new protected areas is based in part on the use of models of species distribution and richness. All scenarios assume some increases in the area of bioenergy crops with some scenarios assuming a major development of this new land use. Several technical and conceptual difficulties in developing future land use change scenarios are discussed. These include the problems of the subjective nature of qualitative interpretations, the land use change models used in scenario development, the problem of validating future change scenarios, the quality of the observed baseline, and statistical downscaling techniques.