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Earth System Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  26 Jun 2020

26 Jun 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal ESD.

Diverging land-use projections cause large variability in their impacts on ecosystems and related indicators for ecosystem services

Anita D. Bayer1, Richard Fuchs1, Reinhard Mey2, Andreas Krause3, Peter H. Verburg4, Peter Anthoni1, and Almut Arneth1 Anita D. Bayer et al.
  • 1Karlsruhe Institute of Technology KIT, Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research, Atmospheric Environmental Research, 82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
  • 2Swiss Federal Institutefor Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, 8903 Birmensdorf, Switzerland
  • 3Technical University of Munich, TUM School of Life Sciences Weihenstephan, Hans-Carl-von-Carlowitz-Platz 2, 85354 Freising, Germany
  • 4Institute for Environmental Studies, VU University Amsterdam, de Boelelaan 1111, 1081 HV Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Abstract. Land-use models and Integrated Assessment Models provide scenarios of land use/cover (LULC) changes following pathways or storylines related to different socio-economic and environmental developments. The large diversity of available scenario projections leads to a recognizable variability in impacts on land ecosystems and the levels of services provided. We evaluated 16 projections of future LULC until 2040 that reflected different assumptions on socio-economic demands and modeling protocols. By using these LULC projections in a state of the art dynamic global vegetation model, we simulated their effect on selected ecosystem service indicators related to ecosystem productivity and carbon sequestration potential, agricultural production and the water cycle. We found that although a common trend for agricultural expansion exists across the scenarios, where and how particular LULC changes are realized differs widely across models and scenarios. They are linked to model-specific considerations of some demands over others and their respective translation into LULC changes and also reflect the simplified or missing representation of processes related to land dynamics or other influencing factors (e.g., trade, climate change). As a result, some scenarios show questionable and possibly unrealistic features in their LULC allocations, including highly regionalized LULC changes with rates of conversion that are contrary to or exceeding rates observed in the past. Across the diverging LULC projections we identified positive global trends of net primary productivity (+10.2 %), vegetation carbon (+9.2 %), crop production (+31.2 %) and water runoff (+9.3 %), and a negative trend of soil and litter carbon stocks (−0.5 %). The variability in ecosystem service indicators across scenarios was especially high for vegetation carbon stocks (± 4.1 %) and crop production (± 12.2 %). Regionally, variability was highest in tropical forest regions, especially at current forest edges, because of intense and strongly diverging LULC change projections in combination with high vegetation productivity dampening or amplifying the effects of climatic change. Our results emphasize that information on future changes in ecosystem functioning and the related ecosystem service indicators should be seen in light of the variability originating from diverging projections of LULC. This is necessary to allow for adequate policy support towards sustainable transformations.

Anita D. Bayer et al.

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Anita D. Bayer et al.

Anita D. Bayer et al.


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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Many projections of future land use/cover exist. We evaluate a number of these and determine the variability they cause in ecosystems and their services. We found that projections differ a lot in regional patterns with some of them being at least questionable in a historical context. Across ecosystem service indicators resulting variability until 2040 was highest in crop production. Results emphasize that such variabilities should be acknowledged in assessments of future ecosystem provisions.
Many projections of future land use/cover exist. We evaluate a number of these and determine the...