Conclusions

The discussion of the different issues relevant to modelling land use change presented in this chapter has shown that scientists have created a wide range of models of land use change. These models are used in various types of applications that relate to agriculture, climate change and future land use mostly within an academic environment. In order to adequately support policy makers, a lot of progress still needs to be made. The example presented in this chapter has illustrated the current capacity of land use models to simulate policy relevant scenarios. However, different studies have indicated that uncertainty in model predictions is still high (Pontius and Malanson, 2005; Walker, 2003) and the involvement of policy makers in scenario definition and interpretation of results is generally low (Uran and Janssen, 2003). Furthermore, results of simulation models are often difficult to communicate between scientists and policy makers; therefore presentation/visualisation issues might need more attention.

The lack of direct use of model results by policy makers should not (solely) be seen as a failure of land use modellers. The unravelling of the dynamics for a system as complex as land use has provided a magnitude of useful insights for local case studies as well as for the underlying processes in general (Geist and Lambin, 2002). These insights are of major importance to policy makers and helpful in defining appropriate interventions. Land use change modellers should aim at thorough validation of their models and demonstrations of the sensitivity of the model results to uncertainties in assumptions and data. Based on such a validation procedure appropriate techniques and levels of detail can be selected for presentation of results to policy makers. This will not only clarify the discussion about the validity of the scenario simulations but also help to identify the main target areas for future research to reduce the uncertainties.

Presentation issues are of extreme importance to enhance the implementation of scientific efforts in policy making. Land use modellers have the advantage that the results can easily be presented as maps rather than tables and texts that often go unnoticed by policy makers. Maps have the potential to identify the 'hotspots' of land use change and focus the attention of policy makers to priority issues. Indices can provide a means to summarize the effects of the simulated changes, e.g., by showing the change in 'open space' as a result of further urbanization such as in the example presented in this chapter.

Apart from the effort made by scientists to better link their work to the interests of policy makers, it is also necessary that policy makers are actively engaged in the land use modelling process and acknowledge the potential of using models in policy formulation. Incentives to actively engage policy makers in the process are the generation of policy relevant scenarios and joint sessions on the definition and interpretation of scenario conditions. If these challenges are met land use change models have the potential to become an important tool for both researchers and policy makers supporting assessments that deal with the future of agriculture, climate and land use patterns.

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