Monthly Archives: September 2013

NRC Report on Land Change Modeling

Essential reading for all you land change modelers out there!

The report Advancing Land Change Modeling: Opportunities and Research Requirements was released recently in pre-publication format via the National Academies Press web site: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=18385 Additional report info can be found here as well: http://dels.nas.edu/Report/report/18385. The study committee included several geographers, assessed the current state of land-change modeling, and identified opportunities for future developments in these models.

Urban development, agriculture, and energy production are just a few of the ways that human activities are continually changing and reshaping the Earth’s surface. Land-change models (LCMs) are important tools for understanding and managing present and future landscape conditions, from an individual parcel of land in a city to the vast expanses of forests around the world. A recent explosion in the number and types of land observations, model approaches, and computational infrastructure has ushered in a new generation of land change models capable of informing decision making at a greater level of detail. This National Research Council report, produced at the request of the U.S. Geological Survey and NASA, evaluates the various land-change modeling approaches and their applications, and how they might be improved to better assist science, policy, and decision makers.

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Global Agro-Climatic Zones

If you are interesting in global patterns of agricultural change, as I am, you might find this recently published paper helpful for selecting the most appropriate global framework.

van Wart, J., van Bussel, L. G., Wolf, J., Licker, R., Grassini, P., Nelson, A., Boogaarde, H., Gerberf, J.,  Muellerf, N. D., Claessensg, L.,
van Ittersum, M. K. & Cassman, K. G. (2013). Use of agro-climatic zones to upscale simulated crop yield potential. Field Crops Research.

Available here.

Exploring Land-Livelihood Transitions

Figure5_rev (2)Rural livelihoods are changing rapidly with economic globalization and global environmental change, which have direct impacts to environmental and socio-economic suitability. All too often the most vulnerable communities – those with the least resources – face the greatest transitions triggered by changing local and global conditions. Those communities also have livelihoods tied to the land, which may lead to environmental degradation and/or fail to support livelihoods in the future. We must advance our understanding of the causes and consequences of land-livelihood transitions in order to avoid maladapted responses that can lead to a loss of land-livelihood sustainability.

My colleagues and I recently published an article in PLoS ONE that explores these issues with an innovative, generalized agent-based model. Because human decision-making drives land-livelihood transitions, a process-level explanation of adaptive responses is needed to explore the conditions under which land-livelihood transitions emerge. In the short-term, this approach advances the use of agent-based virtual laboratories in sustainability research. In coming generations of this modeling approach, we hope to use model insights to devise effective policy interventions aimed at the decision-making level for supporting sustainability .

Decision-Making in Earth System Models

Recognizing that humans are major drivers of global environmental change, a workshop was convened to explore the challenges and possibilities of integrating human decision-making into regional and global Earth system models. An article describing our findings has just been published and open for discussion in Earth System Dynamics.

Join the interactive discussion! Post comments and receive replies from the authors.

Towards decision-based global land use models for improved understanding of the Earth system

M. D. A. Rounsevell, A. Arneth, P. Alexander, D. G. Brown, N. de Noblet-Ducoudré, E. Ellis, J. Finnigan, K. Galvin, N. Grigg, I. Harman, J. Lennox, N. Magliocca, D. Parker, B. C. O’Neill, P. H. Verburg, and O. Young

A primary goal of Earth system modelling is to improve understanding of the interactions and feedbacks between human decision making and biophysical processes. The nexus of land use and land cover change (LULCC) and the climate system is an important example. LULCC contributes to global and regional climate change, while climate affects the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems and LULCC. However, at present, LULCC is poorly represented in Global Circulation Models (GCMs). LULCC models that are explicit about human behaviour and decision making processes have been developed at local to regional scales, but the principles of these approaches have not yet been applied to the global scale level in ways that deal adequately with both direct and indirect feedbacks from the climate system. In this article, we explore current knowledge about LULCC modelling and the interactions between LULCC, GCMs and Dynamic Global Vegetation Models (DGVMs). In doing so, we propose new ways forward for improving LULCC representations in Earth System Models. We conclude that LULCC models need to better conceptualise the alternatives for up-scaling from the local to global. This involves better representation of human agency, including processes such as learning, adaptation and agent evolution, formalising the role and emergence of governance structures, institutional arrangements and policy as endogenous processes and better theorising about the role of tele-connections and connectivity across global networks. Our analysis underlines the importance of observational data in global scale assessments and the need for coordination in synthesising and assimilating available data.