Land use dynamics, land degradation and insights for land sustainability in agriculture and forest landscapes

Land is a finite resource that is under competing uses and claims. With progressing global environmental change, claims on land and their suitability for human land uses are also likely to change. Conversions such as forests to croplands or changes in land use intensity both result in diverse patterns and trajectories of change with potentially different land use outcomes. Evidence also hints at critical underlying local processes whereas driving factors may be context dependent or global. Hence, a better understanding of what role land use dynamics can play for improving the land sustainability in agriculture, forestry and urbanizing landscapes is required. This understanding is necessary to identify relevant land management and governance options. This session examines the spectrum of land use dynamics landscapes face and insights to be gained for theory and promoting resilient landscapes that ensure ecosystem integrity, stop or reverse the degradation of ecosystems, and support human wellbeing in the light of achieving various Sustainable Development Goals. We welcome empirical papers that address land use dynamics and their impacts on ecosystem functions and services at local to regional scales in agriculture, forestry and urbanizing landscapes. Communications to be presented at this session will be considered for either a publication in a Special Issue or a synthesis paper to which we would invite session contributors.

Convener: Chinwe Ifejika Speranza | Co-conveners: Felicia Akinyemi, M Bürgi, Olena Dubovyk, Jorg Priess
vPICO presentations
| Fri, 30 Apr, 15:30–17:00 (CEST)

vPICO presentations: Fri, 30 Apr

Chairpersons: Chinwe Ifejika Speranza, Felicia Akinyemi, M Bürgi
Modelling land use change across scales
Karina Winkler, Richard Fuchs, Mark Rounsevell, and Martin Herold

Land use change is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss and, hence, a key topic for current sustainability debates and climate change mitigation. To understand its impacts, accurate data of global land use change and an assessment of its extent, dynamics, causes and interrelations are crucial. However, although numerous observational data is publicly available (e.g. from remote sensing), the processes and drivers of land use change are not yet fully understood. In particular, current global-scale land change assessments still lack either temporal consistency, spatial explicitness or thematic detail.
Here, we analyse the patterns of global land use change and its underlying drivers based on our novel high-resolution (~1x1 km) dataset of global land use/cover (LULC) change from 1960-2019, HILDA+ (Historic Land Dynamics Assessment+). The data harmonises multiple Earth Observation products and FAO land use statistics. It covers all transitions between six major LULC categories (urban areas, cropland, pasture/rangeland, forest, unmanaged grass-/shrubland and no/sparse vegetation).
On this basis, we show (1) a classification of global LULC transitions into major processes of land use change, (2) a quantification of their spatiotemporal patterns and (3) an identification of their major socioeconomic and environmental drivers across the globe. By using temporal cross-correlation, we study the influence of selected drivers on processes such as agricultural land abandonment, deforestation, forest degradation or urbanisation.
With this, we are able to map the patterns and drivers of global land use change at unprecedented resolution and compare them for different world regions. Giving new data-driven and quantitative insights into a largely untouched field, we identify tele-coupled globalisation patterns and climate change as important influencing factors for land use dynamics. Learning from the recent past, understanding how socio-economic and environmental factors affect the way humans use the land surface is essential for estimating future impacts of land use change and implementing measures of climate mitigation and sustainable land use policies.

How to cite: Winkler, K., Fuchs, R., Rounsevell, M., and Herold, M.: Spatiotemporal patterns of global land use change: Understanding processes and drivers, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-14471,, 2021.

Ianna Raissa Moreira Dantas and Mareike Söder

In times of international agreements and efforts to mitigate climate change and meet sustainable development, ecosystem management and forest conservation deserve special attention to promote human and environmental sustenance. Tropical forests have been declining worldwide, and biodiversity is under constant threat. Understanding the future potential of environmental services requires analysis of the relationship of socioeconomic drivers and anthropogenic land use change (LUC). Population and economic growth, agricultural production, and human capital have a dual relationship of cause and consequence with LUC. Likewise, changing patterns of land use, through agriculture and silviculture activities, is directly associated to market and technical progress, but also to political, institutional, and socioeconomic development. Studying such relationships enhances the analyses on the ability of institutional factors to promote environmental conservation, economic growth, and social welfare. Studies on LUC are historically based on physical variables; however, institutional and political drivers have shown to be core to forest degradation. The present paper aims at investigating the role of physical and institutional factor on global deforestation. This paper draws from recent global remote sensing data on land use from ESA Climate Change Initiative (ESA/CCI) from 1992 and 2015. To assess drivers of deforestation, we employ a logit model regression accounting for a global spatially explicit dataset on land use, regressed with physical, economic, and socioeconomic variables. We make use of the suitability indicators calculated by IIASA for different agricultural crops within the Global Agro-Ecological Zones modelling. As institutional factors we consider areas under protection based on spatial datasets provided by UNEP and wetland international, and include the country level corruption index of Transparency International. Our preliminary analysis shows that institutional instability is significantly related to LUC. In areas where land should be under protection due to non-market ecosystem services, political instability is likely to stimulate land use. Likewise, insecurity in land tenure might lead to a short-term maximization of profits, through full deforestation and exploitation of the soil fertility, instead of a long-term sustainable use.

How to cite: Moreira Dantas, I. R. and Söder, M.: Global Deforestation Revisited: The Role of Political and Institutional Factors, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-16050,, 2021.

Yusha Zhang, Yanchen Bo, Mei Sun, and Tongtong Sun

The global distribution and disturbance information of forest have strong impact on the change of Earth’s ecosystems. In the 1990s, the Eurasian continent forest cover an area of 182 million ha, accounting about 33.2% of the Eurasian continent land area. However, we lack a complete mapping of high-resolution forest disturbances in Eurasia. Remote sensing can regularly obtain forest cover data across expansive range. Therefore, a complete set of Landsat time-series-based forest disturbance detection method is constructed in this paper to map a 30-meter forest disturbance detection distribution map of Eurasian continent.

In the construction of Landsat time series(LTS) data, the Landsat TM, ETM +, and OLI images of forest growth season were selected and synthesized into inter-annual time series over 35 years from 1986 to 2020. And the appropriate indices, NBR and NDVI, were selected as the input data for time series analysis. In time series analysis, the adaptive threshold of model learning is effectively applied in the process of extracting potential disturbance points, and the rich temporal information of LTS is fully mined to optimize and filter the disturbances.

The LTS images and forest disturbance based on adaptive threshold model are used to map three decades of forest disturbances, including the characteristics of the disturbance, spatiotemporal distribution and disturbance frequency across Eurasian continent. The derived disturbance year maps revealed that the disturbed forest area is 237 million ha and 12.8% of Eurasia’s forest area. In order to validate the accuracy of the map, 10066 interpreted Landsat pixels, including 3932 disturbed samples and 6134 undisturbed samples, are selected as reference data. The overall accuracy of the disturbance map is 86.6%, with a commission error of 13.4% and an omission error of 9.4%. The results indicated that the LTS and adaptive threshold model can effectively support the mapping of forest disturbance in Eurasian continent.

How to cite: Zhang, Y., Bo, Y., Sun, M., and Sun, T.: Detection and Mapping of Forest Disturbance in Eurasian Continent, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-10921,, 2021.

Monserrat Garcia Calabrese, Shirley Salinas Romero, Chynthya Cassacia Ibarrola, Luis Morinigo, Magali Alvarenga, and Emmanuel Da Ponte

Over the past 40 years, Paraguay has lost the majority of its natural forest cover, thus becoming one of the countries with the highest deforestation rates in the world. Uninterrupted deforestation practices in the Paraguayan Chaco between 1987 and 2012 resulted in the loss of 27% of its original cover, accounting for almost 44,000 km2 of forested areas depleted. The rapid expansion of the agricultural frontier, cattle ranching, and illegal logging has converted the last forest remnants into isolated patches, thus endangering their continuity and biodiversity within them. In response to these events, the Paraguayan government has implemented numerous environmental programs and regulations to amend the damage that had happened in the past. Although governmental agencies claim a reduction in deforestation activities in the region, proper scientific environmental data that analyze the long-term effect of such regulations/programs remain scarce. Within this context, the present research analyzes the impact of local governments on changes occurred in Paraguayan Chaco forest between the years 1986 and 2020. Remote sensing data acquired from Landsat 4, 5, 7 and 8 images were used to derive the extent of the forest cover and deforestation rates over 34 years. Dynamics of the forest cover was correlated with each of the 10 government terms within the timeframe of the study. By analyzing the forest cover data during and after each term (around five years per government term), we sought to understand the influence of local policies on deforestation activities in the eco-region, aiming to identify social, political, and institutional drivers of change. A comprehensive assessment of creation and effectivities of protected areas, land concession to indigenous communities, and development/implementation of local policies and environmental laws are part of this study. Preliminary results show a significative difference on forest cover loss among governments terms ranging between 1% (2,385 km2) and 9% (14,422 km2). The lack of clear regulations, sound law enforcement, financial support, and inappropriate governance were initially identified as key drivers of change. The use of multi-temporal information was demonstrated to be a key component for designing, supporting, and monitoring conservation strategies and policies. It is crucial to consider not only the outlook of laws and policies aiming to halt deforestation activities but their actual influence on the behavior of natural resources over time.

How to cite: Garcia Calabrese, M., Salinas Romero, S., Cassacia Ibarrola, C., Morinigo, L., Alvarenga, M., and Da Ponte, E.: Understanding the relationship between environmental policies and deforestation activities in the Paraguayan Chaco, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-10020,, 2021.

Javier Rodrigo-Ilarri, Claudia P. Romero-Hernández, and María-Elena Rodrigo-Clavero

Land use in the nearby of a Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) landfill can be strongly affected by the waste management tasks (transport, landfilling and closure). Effects extend from the phases prior to the construction of the landfill until years after the completion of the landfilling process in areas located beyond the perimeter of the plot occupied by the landfill. In this work a new methodology for the analysis of land use change over time is presented. The methodology is based on the use of a new environmental index named WEI (Weighted Environmental Index). WEI is based on the use of GIS techniques accounting for different information sources (digital cartography, aerial photographs and satellite images). WEI assigns environmental values to land use based on the degree of anthropogenic intervention and its occupation surface. A georeferenced multitemporal statistical analysis is performed considering the values of WEI previously assigned to every land use. The methodology has been applied to analyze the land use change near the main MSW landfills of Valencia Region (Spain) where landfilling is currently the only waste disposal technique available. Data have been obtained from the Spanish Land Occupation Information System (SIOSE) public database and integrate GIS information about land use/land cover on an extensive, high-detailed scale. Results demonstrate the application of the WEI to real case studies and the importance of integrating statistical analysis of WEI evolution over time to arrive at a better understanding of the socio-economic and environmental processes that induce land-use change.

How to cite: Rodrigo-Ilarri, J., Romero-Hernández, C. P., and Rodrigo-Clavero, M.-E.: Evaluation of the land use evolution near solid waste landfills using a new weighted environmental index based on GIS techniques, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-12671,, 2021.

Javier Muro, Lisa Schwarz, Florian Männer, Anja Linstädter, and Olena Dubovyk

Land use practices in grasslands are major determinants of their biodiversity and ecosystem functions. Relationships between biodiversity, ecosystem functions and land use practices can vary across climatic and management gradients and across scales. New generations of remote sensing sensors can model grasslands’ biomass and biodiversity parameters with relative RMSE that range between 10% and 40%. However, most of these experiments have been carried out in rather small and homogenous areas. In the project SeBAS (Sensing Biodiversity Across Scales) we are using machine learning algorithms (random forest and neural networks) to model biomass and biodiversity indicators along spatial and management gradients and across scales. Field data (above ground biomass and species inventories) was obtained during summer 2020 from the Biodiversity Exploratories: a set of 150 grassland plots across spatial and management gradients in Germany. Remote sensing information at farm level was obtained from microwave Sentinel-1 and multispectral Sentinel-2 satellites, and at plot level from a multispectral camera mounted on a UAV.

First results show the limitations of satellite images to map vegetation parameters in heterogeneous landscapes, and how the incorporation of UAV information can be used to improve model estimations of biomass production and biodiversity indicators.

How to cite: Muro, J., Schwarz, L., Männer, F., Linstädter, A., and Dubovyk, O.: Modelling biomass and biodiversity in temperate grasslands with Sentinel-1, Sentinel-2 and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles., EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-7232,, 2021.

Mapping trends in woody cover throughout Namibian savannah with MODIS seasonal phenological metrics and field inventory data
Vladimir Wingate
Irene Marzolff, Mario Kirchhoff, Robin Stephan, Manuel Seeger, Ali Aït Hssaïne, and Johannes B. Ries

In semi-arid to arid South-west Morocco, the once ubiquitous endemic argan tree (Argania spinosa) forms the basis of a traditional silvo-pastoral agroforestry system with complex usage rights involving pasturing and tree-browsing by goats, sheep and camels, smallholder agriculture and oil production. Widespread clearing of the open-canopy argan forests has been undertaken in the 12th–17th century for sugarcane production, and again in the 20th century for fuelwood extraction and conversion to commercial agriculture. The remaining argan woodlands have continued to decline due to firewood extraction, charcoal-making, overgrazing and overbrowsing. Soil and vegetation are increasingly being degraded; natural rejuvenation is hindered, and soil-erosion rates rise due to reduced infiltration and increased runoff. Numerous studies indicate that tree density and canopy cover have been generally decreasing for the last 200 years. However, there is little quantitative and spatially explicit information about these forest-cover dynamics.

In our study, the tree-cover change between 1967 and 2019 was analysed for 30 test sites of 1 ha each in argan woodlands of different degradation stages in the provinces of Taroudant, Agadir Ida-Outanane and Chtouka-Aït Baha. We used historical black-and-white satellite photography from the American reconnaissance programme CORONA, recent high-resolution multispectral imagery from the commercial WorldView satellites and ultrahigh resolution small-format aerial photography taken with an unmanned aerial system (UAS) to map the presence, absence and comparative crown-size class of 2610 trees in 1967 and 2019. We supplemented the remotely-sensed data with field observations on tree structure and architecture.

Results show that plant densities reach up to 300 argan trees and shrubs per hectare, and the mean tree density has increased from 58 trees/ha in 1967 to 86 trees/ha in 2019. While 7% of the 1967 trees have vanished today, more than one third of today’s trees could not be observed in 1967. This positive change has a high uncertainty, however, as most of the increase concerns small trees (< 3 m diameter) which might have been missed on the lower-resolution CORONA images.

When combined with our field data on tree architecture, tree count – albeit a parameter easily attained by remote sensing – is revealed as too simple an indicator for argan-forest dynamics, and the first impression of a positive development needs to be revised: The new small trees as well as trees with decreased crown sizes clearly show much stronger degradation characteristics than others, indicating increased pressures on the argan ecosystem during recent decades. Structural traits of the smaller trees also suggest that the apparent increase of tree count is not a result of natural rejuvenation, but mostly of stump re-sprouting, often into multi-stemmed trees, after felling of a tree. The density of the argan forest in the 1960s, prior to the general availability of cooking gas in the region and before the stronger enforcement of the argan logging ban following the declaration of the UNESCO biosphere reserve, may have marked a historic low in our study area, making the baseline of our change analysis far removed from the potential natural state of the argan ecosystem.

How to cite: Marzolff, I., Kirchhoff, M., Stephan, R., Seeger, M., Aït Hssaïne, A., and Ries, J. B.: Degradation or recovery of argan woodlands in South Morocco? Tree count from satellite imagery between 1967–2019 may underestimate pressures on dryland forests status, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-2612,, 2021.

Jiren Xu, Brian Barrett, and Fabrice Renaud

Quantifying land use dynamics is central to evaluate changes in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. It also allows for understanding how ecosystem services (ES) and ecosystem disservices (EDS) are affected by human interventions in the landscape. Finally, it can lead to the development of improved future land use management strategies for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Luanhe River Basin (LRB) is the most afforested river basin in North China and provides multiple ecosystem services which are related to several SDGs (e.g. SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation, 7: Affordable and Clean Energy, and 13: Climate Action). In this study, four scenarios: Trend, Expansion, Sustainability, and Conservation were developed based on different socioeconomic development and environmental protection targets as well as local plans and policies. Local stakeholders were consulted to develop these scenarios and to explore land use dynamics of the LRB and major challenges that the river basin may face by 2030. Land use change was modelled with CLUMondo and ES and EDS were characterised using capacity matrices. The ecosystem services potential index (ESPI) and ecosystem disservices potential index (EDSPI) was calculated, and ES and EDS hotspots and coldspots were identified. The study found that forests and water bodies provided the highest overall ES capacity, while the lowest scores were recorded for built-up and unused land areas. Built-up land and cropland provided the highest overall EDS capacity, while the lowest EDS scores were for water bodies. The forests and water bodies, which were widespread in the upper-middle reaches of the basin, were hotspots of provisioning services, regulating services, cultural services and ecological integrity, while the hotspots of EDS were concentrated in the built-up land areas and the croplands, which were mainly distributed in the downstream of the LRB. Modelling results indicated that the LRB was likely to experience agricultural (crop and livestock) intensification and urban growth under all four future scenarios. The cropland intensity and the urban growth rate were much higher under the historical trend (Trend) scenario compared to those with more planning interventions (Expansion, Sustainability, and Conservation scenarios). The most significant increase of livestock density in grassland was projected under the Expansion scenario. Unless the forest area and biodiversity conservation targets are implemented (Conservation scenarios), the forest areas are projected to decrease under three scenarios by 2030. The ESPI of all the ES declined from 1980 to 2018 and would continue to decline until 2030 without sustainable and conservation development strategies. Compared with the EDSPI in 1980, the EDSPI under all future scenarios in 2030 was projected to increase. This study calls for establishing and implementing sustainable environmental protection policies as well as cross-regional and trans-provincial eco-compensation schemes for minimising trade-offs in ES. The methodological framework and findings of this study can guide regional sustainable development and rational utilisation of land resources in the LRB and other comparable river basins, and will be valuable for policy and planning purposes to the pursuance of SDGs at the sub-national scale.

How to cite: Xu, J., Barrett, B., and Renaud, F.: Modelling dynamics of land use and ecosystem services changes in the Luanhe River Basin in China, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-1258,, 2021.

Ecosystem degradation and agricultural land sustainability
Joana Alves, Jorge Duran, José Paulo Sousa, Paula Castro, Filipe Martinho, Miguel Pardal, Inger Måren, and Helena Freitas

Biosphere Reserves (BR) are territories recognized by UNESCO for their natural and cultural heritage and their role in promoting solutions to harmonize biodiversity conservation with the sustainable use of natural resources. Further, BRs are identified as “learning places for sustainable development”, emphasizing their importance to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. However, Portuguese BRs lack recognition from society as well as from the local, regional or national entities as privileged instruments and areas for valuing and developing the territory.

To enhance the relevance and visibility of the BRs in society and among stakeholders, we designed a project based on the assessment of ecosystem services (ES), as they play fundamental roles in the mitigation and adaptation to climate change, and on the sustainability of the communities and their territories. Our project seeks to structure and foster collective dynamics in these social-ecological systems, respecting the autonomy and diversity of context and heritage that characterizes the Portuguese BRs. Our work is based on a conceptual model with three fundamental pillars. First, we will identify available geographical and biological information and combine it with remote sensing data (Landsat and Sentinel) to map the current and potential ES provided by Portuguese BRs. Second, in each BR, we will implement participatory multi-actor methodologies and focal groups to select the key ES to promote sustainable development and valorisation of natural endogenous resources. To do so, we will use a holistic assessment of the ecological, economic and social values of the different ES, as well as of their role in mitigating and adapting to climate change and environmental change. Finally, we will train local stakeholders on the valuing, promotion and sustainable production and consumption of ES, as to help these communities implementing the Sustainable Development Plans that will be prepared for each BR and in accordance with the UN’s Agenda 2030.

Through complementary initiatives and a comprehensive and networked programmatic action, “Biosphere Reserves: Sustainable territories, Resilient communities” seeks to add value to Portuguese BRs, increasing their resilience and sustainability, and to promote their unique territories and heritage, while showcasing them as model areas for the sustainable development.

How to cite: Alves, J., Duran, J., Sousa, J. P., Castro, P., Martinho, F., Pardal, M., Måren, I., and Freitas, H.: Biosphere Reserves: Sustainable territories, Resilient communities – A conceptual model for the assessment of ecosystem services, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-13567,, 2021.

Felicia Akinyemi and Chinwe Ifejika Speranza

Land system change is implicated in many sustainability challenges as its alteration impacts ecosystems and exacerbate the vulnerability of communities, particularly where livelihoods are largely dependent on natural resources. The production of a land use-cover map for year 2020 extended the time-series for assessing land use-cover dynamics over a period of 45 years (1975-2020). The case of Nigeria is examined as the land area encompass several agro-ecological zones. The classification scheme countries utilise for estimating Land Degradation Neutrality baseline and monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goal 15.3.1 indicator (proportion of degraded land over total land area) was used, based on seven land use-cover classes (tree-covered area, grassland, cropland, wetland, artificial surface area, otherland, and waterbody). Severity of land degradation, computed as changes in vegetation productivity using the Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI), as well as changes in ecosystem service values were examined across the different land use-cover types, in areas of change and persistence. Land degradation is most severe in settlement areas and wetlands with declining trends in 34% of settlement areas and 29% in wetlands respectively. About 19% of tree-covered areas experienced increasing trends. In some areas of land use-cover persistence, vegetation productivity declined despite no land change occurring. For example, vegetation productivity declined in about 35% and 9% of persistent wetlands and otherland respectively between 2000 and 2020, whereas there was improvement in 22% of persistent grasslands, 18% of persistent otherlands and 12% of persistent croplands. In land change areas, about 12% and 8% of wetlands and tree-covered areas had declining vegetation trends respectively, whereas it improved the most in croplands (20%), and grasslands (16%). With some wetland, cropland and otherland areas degrading the most, protecting these critical ecosystems is required to sustain their functions and services. The finding that vegetation productivity may decline in areas of persistence underscores the importance of intersecting land use-cover (in terms of persistence and change) with vegetation productivity to identify pathways for enhancing ecological sustainability.

How to cite: Akinyemi, F. and Ifejika Speranza, C.: Land change effects on ecosystem degradation across Nigerian agro-ecological zones from 1975 through 2020, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-7204,, 2021.

Adenle Ademola, Sébastien Boillat, and Chinwe Ifejika Speranza

Declining land productivity remains a challenge for agricultural-based livelihoods and for achieving food security. This is particularly the case in social-ecological contexts where people are largely dependent on local food production for their livelihoods and food security, such as among rural communities in the Nigeria Guinea Savannah. Yet how land users perceive the problem of land degradation and their capacity to manage land in an environmentally sustainable manner, can influence the measures they can initiate to address land degradation. Using a case study of Niger state, Nigeria, this study examines land users’ experiences and land management measures to address land degradation in the Nigeria Guinea Savannah. 30 communities were purposively selected based on the validated mapping of the hotspots of degraded areas. We adapted the World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies Sustainable Land Management questionnaires to also capture perceptions and administered 225 questionnaires to land users. Through, key informant interviews further insights and data on perspectives and motivations of land users and communities were collected to understand the land degradation situation and interpret the questionnaire surveys. Through qualitative and statistical analysis of differences in perceptions between socio-cultural strata, we show the relations between socio-demographic, socio-economic factors, and land degradation. We discuss land governance and sustainable land management practices for improving land productivity in the region.



How to cite: Ademola, A., Boillat, S., and Ifejika Speranza, C.: Land users’ perceptions of land degradation and implications for sustainable land management and governance in Niger State, Nigeria , EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-7415,, 2021.

Ariani Wartenberg, Diana Moanga, Matthew Potts, and Van Butsic

Meeting growing challenges to maintain food production and rural livelihoods while minimizing land degradation will require significant changes in the way existing farming landscapes are managed. A systemic understanding of the agroecological impacts of land-use change in established farming landscapes, and the identification of significant trade-offs or synergies, are crucial to inform farm management and land-use governance solutions. Here, we focus on land-use change impacts in an already established farming landscape. We investigate spatial and temporal dynamics of agricultural land-use change from 2002 to 2018, in Kern County, California. Our study region is one of the major agricultural production hotspots in the United States, and has undergone a recent agricultural land-use transition from annual to perennial cropping systems. In this study we analyzed parcel-level data documenting changes in the land-use footprint for individual crops, ranging from annual crops like wheat and cotton to perennial tree crops like almonds and pistachios. We assess how land-use change impacted ecosystem pressures and service indicators selected for their relevance in an agricultural context, including water-use, soil erosion, profit and carbon sequestration. Our results indicate no salient trade-offs or synergies among individual crops, and illustrate the possibility of limited economic-ecological trade-offs associated with a shift from annual to perennial crops in a well-established agricultural landscape. We further discuss the relevance of our findings in the context of land-ownership consolidation and changing export dynamics in the study area.

How to cite: Wartenberg, A., Moanga, D., Potts, M., and Butsic, V.: Crop transitions can drive economic and ecological shifts in an established farming landscape: a case study from California, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-6307,, 2021.

Daniel Müller, Andrey Dara, Christopher Krause, Mayra Daniela Peña-Guerrero, Tillman Schmitz, Atabek Umirbekov, Yanbing Wei, and Philippe Rufin

Water withdrawals for irrigated crop production constitute the largest global consumer of blue water resources. Monitoring the dynamics of irrigated crop cultivation allows to track changes in water consumption of irrigated cropping, which is particularly paramount in water-scarce arid and semi-arid areas. We analyzed changes in irrigated crop cultivation along with occurrence of hydrological droughts for the Amu Darya river basin of Central Asia (534,700 km2), once the largest tributary river to the Aral Sea before large-scale irrigation projects have grossly reduced the amount of water that reaches the river delta. We used annual and seasonal spectral-temporal metrics derived from Landsat time series to quantify the three predominant cropping practices in the region (first season, second season, double cropping) for every year between 1988 and 2020. We further derived unbiased area estimates for the cropping classes at the province level based on a stratified random sample (n=2,779). Our results reveal a small yet steady decrease in irrigated second season cultivation across the basin. Regionally, we observed a gradual move away from cotton monocropping in response to the policy changes that were instigated since the mid-1990s. We compared the observed cropping dynamics to the occurrence of hydrological droughts, i.e., periods with inadequate water resources for irrigation. We find that areas with higher drought risks rely more on irrigation of the second season crops. Overall, our analysis provides the first fine-scale, annual crop type maps for the irrigated areas in the Amu Darya basin. The results shed light on how institutional changes and hydroclimatic factors that affect land-use decision-making, and thus the dynamics of crop type composition, in the vast irrigated areas of Central Asia.

How to cite: Müller, D., Dara, A., Krause, C., Peña-Guerrero, M. D., Schmitz, T., Umirbekov, A., Wei, Y., and Rufin, P.: Post-Soviet changes in irrigated crop production in the Amu Darya Basin, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-16266,, 2021.

Maria Vincenza Chiriacò and Riccardo Valentini

The land sector plays a crucial role in the context of climate change, being both a contributor to the problem and part of its solution. On one side, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture, forestry and other land uses (AFOLU sector) cover the 24% of global emissions, representing the second hot spot in the contribution to climate change after the energy sector. On the other side, this sector offers the exclusive capacity to remove atmospheric carbon dioxide and store it in soils and biomass.

The challenge is to understand the extent to which sustainable land management can be a valuable solution to increase the mitigation potential of the land sector, particularly at small-scale rural landscape level. A land-based approach is developed and tested for application at small-scale rural landscape level, aiming at reducing and offsetting GHG emissions from the livestock activities, one of the main sources of GHG emissions of the whole agricultural sector. The proposed land-based approach builds on an ensemble of methodologies, including Geographic Information System (GIS) elaboration, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and methodologies from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), that allow estimating livestock GHG emissions and the mitigation potential of sustainable land-use options applied in the same small-scale rural landscape (e.g. improvement of ruminants’ diet, biogas from manure, reduction of synthetic fertilizers, minimum/no-tillage, natural herbaceous cover, reuse of agricultural residues, new orchards and forests on marginal lands).

Results from a case study in Italy show that land-based mitigation options applied at small-scale rural landscape level can reduce and completely offset the GHG livestock emissions of the same area, leading to carbon neutral livestock systems, in line with the objectives of the EU Green Deal and the global climate commitments. Thus, this study confirms that the land sector can strongly contribute to climate change mitigation if sustainable land-use options are applied. Moreover, when sustainable land-use options are applied with a proximity approach in a small-scale, the results are not limited to the carbon neutrality of the livestock production but involve also other tangible environmental and socio-economic benefits in the territory (e.g. sustainable agriculture, biodiversity protection, water and air quality, new green areas, tourism, well-being etc.). 

A such sustainable land-based approach can be applied to all food systems (not only livestock) and can be scaled at global level involving an infinite number of districts (organized at local, regional or national level) with the potential to influence globally the food production toward a sustainable model of the whole land sector. The implementation of a such sustainable land management aiming to a carbon neutral food production can be supported at public policies level, under the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the Carbon Farming schemes, but also by the private sector in the framework of voluntary carbon mechanisms.   

How to cite: Chiriacò, M. V. and Valentini, R.: A land-based approach for climate change mitigation in the livestock sector, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-7959,, 2021.

Julian Helfenstein, Matthias Bürgi, Vasco Diogo, Franziska Mohr, Beatrice Schüpbach, Rebecca Swart, Erich Szerencsits, Peter Verburg, and Felix Herzog

There is broad agreement that agriculture has to become more sustainable in order to provide enough healthy food at minimal economic, environmental and social costs. But what is “more sustainable”? More often than not, different stakeholders have opposing opinions on what a more sustainable future should look like. In this study, we present an approach to assess the sustainability of agricultural development based on societal visions. We illustrate the approach by linking observed changes in agricultural land use intensity in a Swiss case study area with desired change according to three contrasting visions. The three visions, from a liberal think-tank, the Swiss Farmer Association, and the agroecological movement, cover a wide spectrum of sociopolitical interest groups in Swiss agriculture. The observed developments aligned most closely with desired developments of the liberal think-tank. Farmer interviews revealed that farms increased in size (+ 57%), became more specialized, and more productive (+ 223%) over the past 20 years. In addition, interpretation of aerial photographs indicated that farming became more rationalized at the landscape level, with increasing field sizes (+ 34%) and removal of solitary field trees (-18%). The case study example highlights the potential of societal visions to assess changes in land use intensity and outcomes in various sustainability dimensions. The main advantages are that the approach accommodates multiple stakeholder goals, while explicitly addressing their narratives and respective systems of values and norms, thus being more informative to the wider public. For these reasons, we argue that future assessments of sustainability should focus on contrasting observed developments with desired change by various stakeholder groups. This could help identify mismatches between desired and actual development and pave the way for designing appropriate new policies.

How to cite: Helfenstein, J., Bürgi, M., Diogo, V., Mohr, F., Schüpbach, B., Swart, R., Szerencsits, E., Verburg, P., and Herzog, F.: Societal vision vs. farmers’ reality: an approach to evaluate if agricultural intensification is sustainable, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-3888,, 2021.

Chukwudi Njoku, Francis Okpiliya, Joel Efiong, and Chinwe Ifejika Speranza

Violent conflicts related to pastoralists-farmers’ interactions in Nigeria have assumed an unprecedented dimension, causing loss of lives and livelihoods. The mid-Benue trough (Benue and Taraba States) has suffered most from the conflicts. This study aims to provide knowledge on the socio-ecological drivers of pastoralists-farmers’ conflicts in the mid-Benue trough from the year 2000 to 2020 and to identify pathways to solving them. First, data from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project were used to map the conflicts. Second, to understand the nexus of climate change, land use and the conflicts, the study analyzed satellite data of Land Surface Temperature (LST) as a proxy for climate change, using data from the Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) satellite and Land Use Land Cover (LULC), using LandSat 7 ETM and LandSat 8 ETM+ data, then linked them to the mapped conflicts. Third, to understand causes and impacts of the conflict on pastoralists and farmers’ livelihoods, 100 interviews were conducted, 50 for each group and analyzed using content analysis and descriptive statistics. Results showed that there were 2532 fatalities from 309 conflict events between pastoralists and farmers. The incidents exhibited statistically significant clustering and were minimal between the year 2000 and 2012, increasing gradually until the year 2013 when it began to rise geometrically. The Getis-Ord Gi hotspot analysis revealed the conflict hotspots to include Agatu, Oturkpo, Gwer East and Gashaka Local Government Areas. The results from the LST analysis showed that the area coverage of high LST increased from 30 percent in 2000 to 38 percent in 2020, while extremely high LST area also increased from 14 to 16 percent. A significantly high percentage of the conflicts (87 percent) occurred in areas with high LST (>30⁰C). In addition, the LULC analyses showed that built-up land area increased by 35 km2 (0.1 percent) and dense forests reduced by 798 km2 (0.1 percent). Notably, shrublands and grasslands, which are the resource domains of the pastoralists reduced by 11,716 km(13.1 percent) and croplands of farmers increased by 12,316 km2 (13.8 percent). This presents an apparent transition of LULC from shrublands and grasslands to croplands in the area. Further analyses showed that 63 percent of the conflicts occurred in croplands and 16 percent in shrublands and grasslands. Hence, the reduction of land resource available to pastoralists and their subsequent cropland encroachment were identified as major causes of the conflict. It was therefore concluded that land development for other purposes is a major driver of pastoralists-farmers’ conflicts in the study area. There is thus a need to integrate conflict maps, LST and LULC dynamics to support dialogue, land use planning and policy formulation for sustainable land management to guide pastoral and farming activities.

How to cite: Njoku, C., Okpiliya, F., Efiong, J., and Ifejika Speranza, C.: Pastoralists-farmers’ conflicts in Nigeria’s mid-Benue Trough: Socio-ecological drivers and pathways to addressing the conflicts., EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-13643,, 2021.