Changing land use intensity in Europe – Recent processes in selected case studies

T. van der Sluis, G.B.M. Pedroli, S.B.P. Kristensen, G.L. Cosor, E. Pavlis

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72 Citations (Scopus)


In recent decades the intensification of agricultural production in many European countries has been one of the key components of land-use change. The impact of agricultural intensification varies according to national and local contexts and a greater understanding of the drivers of intensification will help to mitigate against its negative impacts and harness potential benefits. This paper analyses changes in land use intensity in six case studies in Europe. A total of 437 landowners were interviewed and their responses were analysed in relation to changes in land use intensity and agricultural production between 2001 and 2011. In the case studies in Western and Eastern Europe we observed stabilisation during the last decade, and no clear tendency of increase or decrease of land use intensity. The use of fertilizers and pesticides seems to have decreased in our cases in Western Europe, which is contrary to trends in Eastern Europe. Agricultural production remained stable in almost all cases, except for an increase in Austria and Romania which may indicate that the farming efficiency has increased. A statistical analysis showed a division between study areas in Romania and Austria (increasing land use intensity) versus those in the Netherlands, Denmark and Greece (decreasing). In the Mediterranean cases we observe a process where agriculture is becoming increasingly marginalised, at the same time as changes in function with regard to urbanisation and recreational land uses have taken place. Logistic regression highlighted the importance of farm size and farmer type in understanding changes in land use intensity. The dominant pattern of stabilisation which has occurred over the past 10 years may also partly be a result of effective EU and national environmental and agricultural policies, which are increasingly concerned with improving environmental conditions in rural areas.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)777-785
JournalLand Use Policy
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Extensification
  • Intensification
  • Land abandonment
  • Land use intensity
  • Landscape structure


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