A new European land systems representation accounting for landscape characteristics

Related GLP Member: Yue Dou, Ziga Malek, Peter Verburg

In this paper the authors integrated land cover information, land use and management intensity, and landscape characteristics, and developed a comprehensive and high-resolution representation (1-km2) of European land systems. Based on insights from ecologists and relevance to biodiversity studies, they applied an expert-based hierarchical classification approach and identified 7 major land systems and 26 classes. They also used nine EU-wide bird species to demonstrate the added-values of our map to study species distribution, compared to the land cover only data.

Their results highlight several important messages to the GLP science community and the wider environment and biodiversity research communities:

  • Mosaic systems that constitute various land elements and without dominant land cover type covers about 14.5% of European land; 
  • Forest systems are the largest land systems in EU that cover about 32.3% land surface, however, more than two thirds are used as medium and high intensity forest.
  • The peri-urban areas, which are low in urban land cover but are adjacent to the urban core, dominant the settlement areas in the western and southern Europe, while low-intensity village landscapes spread widest in eastern Europe.
  • For the nine modeled European-wide bird species, bio-climatic variables consistently bring in the most information to the distribution. However, our land system model demonstrate substantially higher variable contribution compared to the land cover data.
  • Their map is publicly available at : https://dataverse.nl/dataset.xhtml?persistentId=doi:10.34894/XNC5KA

This work is led by Yue Dou (@gracedou) from Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, with colleagues Ziga Malek(@zigamalek) and @Peter Verburg(peterverburg11) and ecologists from CNRS and University of Rome.