Co-evolution of landscape patterns and agricultural intensification:An example of dairy farming in a traditional Dutch landscape.

D.F. van Apeldoorn, B. Kempen, M.P.W. Sonneveld, K. Kok

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12 Citations (Scopus)


The intensification of agricultural production strongly affects the characteristics of traditional rurallandscapes. Yet, the complexity of these landscapes also puts constraints on intensification. This inter-relationship leads to the hypothesis that the degree of intensification and locality are interdependent.Feedbacks between landscape and intensification often go unnoticed, while such a coupling would arguefor spatial explicit studies with a co-evolutionary perspective. In this study, we localized and quantifiedinteractions between landscape patterns and agricultural intensification for dairy farming systems in atraditional Dutch rural landscape. First, a conceptual diagram was made that maps causal interactionsbetween landscape patterns and production intensity. This conceptual diagram was converted to spatialexplicit descriptors of landscape patterns, such as hedge density, field size, clay content, ground waterhydrology and spatial explicit descriptors of management such as hedgerow change, field aggregation,field grazing days and fertilizer application. Next, these landscape patterns and management descrip-tors were linked to the current production intensity of farms such as total farm milk yield, milk yieldper cow and milk yield per hectare. These descriptors were tested for interrelations by applying two-sample Kolmogorov–Smirnov tests. We found that a higher milk production was significantly linked tolarger fields, fewer hedgerows, fewer grazing days, higher use of N-fertilizer and a decrease of nutrientcycling. Furthermore, production intensity was found to differ with the landscape pattern of clay con-tent and groundwater hydrology. On top of this landscape template, man-made patterns of field sizesand hedgerows from before 1930 are still visible in the current differences of milk production inten-sity. Current farm management was found to have relations with the hedgerows, field size, clay contentand groundwater hydrology. These relations hint at a co-evolution of landscape pattern and agriculturalintensification. Interestingly, the largest differences between descriptors of landscape pattern and inten-sity were found for similar values of clay content, groundwater hydrology and fertilizer use. We speculatethat these similar values indicate the existence of tipping points for diverging trajectories of intensifica-tion. Identification of such tipping points has implications for policies that deal with the future dynamicsof rural landscapes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-23
JournalAgriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • ecosystem services
  • grassland
  • resilience
  • flanders
  • quality
  • systems
  • fields


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