Representing large-scale land acquisitions in land use change scenarios for the Lao PDR

N. Debonne, J. van Vliet, P.H. Verburg, Andreas Heinimann

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Agricultural large-scale land acquisition (LSLA) is a process that is currently not captured by land change models. We present a novel land change modeling approach that includes processes governing LSLAs and simulates their interactions with other land systems. LSLAs differ from other land change processes in two ways: (1) their changes affect hundreds to thousands of contiguous hectares at a time, far surpassing other land change processes, e.g., smallholder agriculture, and (2) as policymakers value LSLA as desirable or undesirable, their agency significantly affects LSLA occurrence. To represent these characteristics in a land change model, we allocate LSLAs as multi-cell patches to represent them at scale while preserving detail in the representation of other dynamics. Moreover, LSLA land systems are characterized to respond to an explicit political demand for LSLA effects, in addition to a demand for various agricultural commodities. The model is applied to simulate land change in Laos until 2030, using three contrasting scenarios: (1) a target to quadruple the area of LSLA, (2) a moratorium for new LSLA, and (3) no target for LSLA. Scenarios yield drastically different land change trajectories despite having similar demands for agricultural commodities. A high level of LSLA impedes smallholders’ engagement with rubber or cash crops, while a moratorium on LSLA results in increased smallholder involvement in cash cropping and rubber production. This model goes beyond existing land change models by capturing the heterogeneity of scales of land change processes and the competition between different land users instigated by LSLA.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1857–1869
Number of pages13
JournalRegional Environmental Change
Issue number6
Early online date29 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018


Funding information Support for the research reported in this paper was provided by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework ERC Grant Agreement 311819 (GLOLAND) and the Asian Development Bank, project TA-7987 REG: Core environmental program and biodiversity conservation corridors initiative in the Greater Mekong Subregion, Phase 2 – Land use change simulation and training (44323-012).

FundersFunder number
European Union’s Seventh Framework ERC
Asian Development BankTA-7987, 44323-012
Seventh Framework Programme311819
European Research Council


    • Land systems
    • Land grabbing
    • Land use change
    • Laos
    • Large-Scale Land Acquisitions (LSLA)
    • Modeling


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