Mapping global patterns of land use decision-making

Related GLP Member: Ziga Malek, Peter Verburg

In this paper, Žiga Malek and Peter Verburg used a collection of studies on local land use decision-making, and studied whether they can identify how socio-economic, climatic, and soil and terrain contextual conditions influence the spatial distribution of different decision-making modes. They found out, that (to a large extent) land use decision-making can be explained by local spatial contexts. For example, they observe how survival and livelihood are positively associated to the spatial variation in childhood malnutrition, distance to roads and negatively to total economic output. Conversely, economic objectives behind land use change are positively related to conditions representing higher levels of socio-economic development.

Their results highlight several important issues, that the GLP land systems science community (and the wider environmental change community) can benefit from:

  • Decision-making has a high level of spatial variation also within countries and regions, so a simplification using national proxy indicators (e.g. HDI, GDP), is insufficient to explain land use change.
  • Their results can help explain why some areas experienced lower intensification rates in the past decades, compared to others (e.g. Subsaharan Africa vs. East Asia).
  • The spatial distributions can help to develop better land use models, where currently agency is poorly represented (if at all), and where usually rational and uniform rules are applied and simulated (e.g. intensification on cropland with low intensity, disregarding the capacity of the people to do so).
  • They also identify areas for which the collection of local scale case studies is not representative, and highlight areas for which more research is necessary.
  • All of their data (spatial distributions) are publicly available to anyone at