Articles | Volume 5, issue 1
Earth Syst. Dynam., 5, 117–137, 2014
Earth Syst. Dynam., 5, 117–137, 2014

ESD Reviews 26 Feb 2014

ESD Reviews | 26 Feb 2014

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

M. D. A. Rounsevell1, A. Arneth2, P. Alexander1, D. G. Brown3, N. de Noblet-Ducoudré4, E. Ellis5, J. Finnigan6, K. Galvin8, N. Grigg7, I. Harman6, J. Lennox9, N. Magliocca5, D. Parker10, B. C. O'Neill11, P. H. Verburg12, and O. Young13 M. D. A. Rounsevell et al.
  • 1School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  • 2Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research/Atmospheric Environmental Research, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
  • 3School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
  • 4Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, Unité mixte CEA-CNRS-UVSQ, Gif-sur-Yvette, France
  • 5Department of Geography and Environmental Systems, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, MD, USA
  • 6The Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research – A partnership between CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Canberra, Australia
  • 7CSIRO Land and Water, Canberra, Australia
  • 8Department of Anthropology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA
  • 9Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM), Venice, Italy
  • 10School of Planning, Faculty of Environment, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada
  • 11Climate and Global Dynamics Division & Integrated Science Program, National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Boulder, CO, USA
  • 12Institute for Environmental Studies, Amsterdam Global Change Institute, VU University Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • 13Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, USA

Abstract. 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 upscaling from the local to global scale. 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 teleconnections 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.

Final-revised paper