Multifunctionality at what scale? A landscape multifunctionality assessment for the European Union under conditions of land use change

Julia Stürck*, Peter H. Verburg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Context: The provision of multiple ecosystem services (ES) within a landscape is commonly referred to as landscape multifunctionality. Modifying landscapes to increase multifunctionality and reduce trade-offs with concurrent services bears the potential to enhance sustainability in human-dominated landscapes. Assessing landscape multifunctionality is thus crucial for land management and planning, but lack of a clear definition and operationalization of multifunctionality impedes comparisons of different study results. Objectives: We want to address how elements of the study design affect results of multifunctionality assessments. Furthermore, we want to quantify future multifunctionality in the European Union (EU) and indicate the role of land use change and land use diversity on multifunctionality. Methods: We analyzed diverging scenarios depicting land use change in the EU between 2000 and 2040 for their effects on landscape multifunctionality. We tested different multifunctionality indicators at various spatial scales based on the modelling of 12 ES and biodiversity indicators. Results: Particularly the analysis scale determines the interpretation of landscape multifunctionality. Coldspots identified by different indicators are in higher agreement than hotspots. We could not confirm links between land use diversity and landscape multifunctionality. While, at EU scale, multifunctionality slightly increases in future scenarios, agricultural intensification and (peri-)urban growth pose large threats to multifunctional landscapes. Conclusions: The choice of indicator and analysis scale strongly determine possible interpretations of the results. Rather than focusing on the impacts of land use change on multifunctionality, it is recommended to base land use policy on the impacts of location-specific change on ES supply and demands.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)481-500
Number of pages20
JournalLandscape Ecology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017


  • Ecosystem services
  • Europe
  • Land use change
  • Multifunctional
  • Scenarios
  • Spatial scale


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