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The unprecedented rate of land cover conversion and changes in land management provides a major challenge to policy makers. Land Use and Land Cover change (LUCC) does not only change the landscapes in which we live, but also, more indirectly, components of our physical and social environment, such as climate, biodiversity and food security. Large scale deforestation has significant effects on regional and global climate (Cardoso et al., 2003; Cox et al., 2000). Fragmentation of ecosystems through agricultural expansion or infrastructure development causes changes in habitat conditions for many species, often leading to a decrease in biodiversity (Sala et al., 2002; White et al., 1997). Furthermore, ongoing urbanization results in a loss of recreation space and disconnection of urban populations from the rural hinterlands and natural areas. The global significance of land use and land cover change makes the study of LUCC of extreme importance in all discussions on the future of agriculture, land use and climate change.

LUCC is mostly seen as the result of the complex interaction between changes in social and economic opportunities in conjunction with the biophysical environment. Regionally LUCC leads to a modification or complete replacement of the cover of the earth surface (Lambin et al., 2003). The complexity of LUCC is largely due to the interaction of decision making at different levels: ranging from individual farmers that decide upon the land use management of individual plots to global organizations that argue for further liberalization of international trade markets in turn influencing market conditions faced by land owners. Furthermore, land use and land cover changes often show feedback and feed forward signals that can cause a relatively small change to trigger larger scale events (Lambin and Geist, 2003). A typical example of a feedback mechanism is the interaction between climate change and land use change. Climate change is an important driver for land use change while, at the same time, land use has

F. Brouwer andB.A. McCarl (eds.), Agriculture and Climate Beyond2015, 5-32. © 2006 Springer. Printed in the Netherlands.

significant influence on climate conditions through the emission or sequestration of greenhouse gases.

For scientists, this complexity not only provides a major scientific challenge, but also the need to supply appropriate information to policy makers. Policy makers need to understand the trade-offs between different policy options and the mechanisms that steer the land use change processes. For that purpose, LUCC science can provide:

• insight into the driving factors and underlying processes that cause and modify land use change processes; and

• projections of plausible future land use change trajectories and land use patterns.

Insight into the processes of LUCC helps to identify policy measures that efficiently modify or mitigate the employment and use of land uses stimulating unfavourable effects. Projections can identify the implications of land use changes and can be used as early warning systems regarding hot-spots which are priority areas for in-depth analysis and policy intervention.

The analysis of complex systems is often assisted by simulation models that provide a conceptualisation of the functioning of the system under study (Carpenter et al., 1999; Scheffer, 1999). Since real-life experiments in land use change are difficult to perform, computer models are used to provide a computational laboratory in which hypothesis about the processes of and implications from land use change can be tested. Furthermore, models provide a structured way of analyzing complex interactions; scientists can make assumptions on the most important mechanisms of land use change and then test these hypotheses through sensitivity analysis. Once a functioning and validated model of the land use system is constructed, then projections of future developments can be made. The user can explore system functioning through 'what-if' scenarios and explore sensitivity regarding land use change projections and implications. Scenario simulations can provide insight toward alternative futures or allow the evaluation of the effects and trade-offs within different scenarios. Possible scenario simulations include the evaluation of the effect of changes in the agricultural sector (e.g., due to changes in market conditions or agricultural policies) on land use patterns.

This chapter provides a discussion of different LUCC modelling approaches and the main challenges that modellers are facing. An illustration of the possible use of LUCC models is given through an example of a scenario simulation to visualize the effects of different land use policies in the western part of the Netherlands. This area faces an increasing pressure due to urbanization and infrastructure construction. Agricultural lands are rapidly being replaced by residential and industrial areas. The model-based exploration of future land use patterns is used to visualize the effects of different land use policies that aim at protecting the recreational and ecological value of the remaining agricultural lands. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the constraints and challenges of using LUCC modelling to support land use policies.

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