A review of current calibration and validation practices in land-change modeling

Jasper van Vliet*, Arnold K. Bregt, Daniel G. Brown, Hedwig van Delden, Scott Heckbert, Peter H. Verburg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

157 Citations (Scopus)


Land-change models are increasingly used to explore land-change dynamics, as well as for policy analyses and scenario studies. In this paper we review calibration and validation approaches adopted for recently published applications of land-change models. We found that statistical analyses and automated procedures are the two most common calibration approaches, while expert knowledge, manual calibration, and transfer of parameters from other applications are less frequently used. Validation of model results is predominantly based on locational accuracy assessment, while a small fraction of the applications assessed the accuracy of the generated land-use or land-cover patterns. Of the reviewed model applications, thirty-one percent did not report any validation. We argue that to mature as a scientific tool, and to gain credibility for scenario studies and policy assessments, the validation of land-change models requires consideration of challenges posed by uncertainty, complexity, and non-stationarity of land-change processes, and equifinality and multifinality of land-change models.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)174-182
JournalEnvironmental Modelling & Software
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Land-cover change
  • Land-use change
  • Model accuracy
  • Model development
  • Model evaluation
  • Urban growth model


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