Downscaling of land use change scenarios to assess the dynamics of European landscapes
Europe's rural areas are expected to witness massive and rapid changes in land use due to changes in demography, global trade, technology and enlargement of the European Union. Changes in demand for agricultural products and agrarian structure are likely to have a large impact on landscape quality and the value of natural areas. A spatially explicit, dynamic, land use change model has been used to translate European level scenarios into a high resolution assessment of changes in land use for the 25 countries of the European Union. Scenarios differ in worldview, ranging from enhanced global cooperation towards strong regionalisation on one hand and strong to weak government intervention on the other. Global economic and integrated assessment models were used to calculate changes in demand for agricultural area at country level while a spatially explicit land use change model was used to downscale these demands to land use patterns at 1 km2 resolution. The land use model explicitly accounts for the variation in driving factors among countries and the path dependence in land use change trajectories. Results indicate the large impact abandonment of agricultural land and urbanization has on European landscapes and the different scenarios indicate that spatial policies can make an important contribution to preserve landscapes containing high natural and/or historic values. Furthermore, the dynamic simulations indicate that the trajectory of land use change has an important impact on resulting landscape patterns as a result of the path-dependence in land use change processes. The results are intended to support discussions on the future of the rural area and identify hotspots of landscape change that need specific consideration.