Representing responses to climate change in spatial land system models

Žiga Malek*, Peter H. Verburg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Modelling future change to land use and land cover is done as part of many local and global scenario environmental assessments. Nevertheless, there are still considerable challenges related to simulating land-use responses to climate change. Mostly, climate change is considered by changing the temperature and precipitation, affecting the spatial distribution and productivity of future land use and land cover as result of differential changes in growing conditions. Other climate change effects, such as changes in the water resources needed to support future cropland expansion and intensification, are often neglected. In this study, we demonstrate how including different types of responses to climate change influences the simulation of future changes to land use and land cover, and land management. We study the influence of including different climate change effects in land system modeling step by step. The results show that land system models need to include numerous simultaneous climate change effects, particularly when looking at adaptation options such as implementing irrigation. Otherwise, there is a risk of biased impact estimates leading either to under- or overestimation of the consequences of land use change, including land degradation. Spatial land system models therefore need to be developed accounting for a multitude of climate change impacts, uncertainties related to climate data, and an assessment of the sensitivity of the outcomes toward the decisions of modellers on representing climate change impacts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4954-4973
Number of pages20
JournalLand Degradation & Development
Issue number17
Early online date7 Sep 2021
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Katharina Schulze, Jasper van Vliet, Yue Dou, and Sean Goodwin for their useful tips on the manuscript. The research in this article has been supported by the European Research Council under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme: LUC4C (Grant No. 603542), OPERAs (Grant No. 308393), and ERC grant GLOLAND (no. 311819). This article contributes to the objectives of the Global Land Programme ( ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Land Degradation & Development published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd


  • climate change
  • cropland intensification
  • irrigation
  • abandonment
  • water resources
  • spatial allocation


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