From stories to maps: translating participatory scenario narratives into spatially explicit information

Dula W. Duguma*, Jannik Schultner, David J. Abson, Joern Fischer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


To understand future land use change, and related ecological and social impacts, scenario planning has become increasinglypopular. We demonstrate an approach for translating scenario narratives into spatially explicit land use maps. Starting from fourpreviously developed scenarios of land use change in southwestern Ethiopia we developed a baseline land use map, and rules for how to modify the baseline map under each scenario. We used the proximity-based scenario generator of the InVEST software to model the prospective land cover changes to existing forest (53%), arable land (26%), pasture (11%), and wetlands (7%), under the four future scenarios. The model results indicate that forest cover area would remain essentially the same under the “gain over grain” and “biosphere reserve” scenarios. Coffee plantations would cover almost half the landscape (49%) in the “mining green gold” scenario, whereas arable land would expand and cover more than half of the landscape (57%) in the “food first” scenario. The approach presented here integrates future land use mapping with participatory, narrative-based scenario research to assess the social-ecological outcomes of alternative futures. The translation of narratives onto maps can help researchers and stakeholders better understand and communicate potential land use changes, and facilitate a more spatially nuanced approach to managing or adapting to broad scale socioeconomic changes. Our study constitutes a methodological contribution to the management of land use change, as well as a tool to facilitate transparent policy negotiation and communication at local, government, and NGO levels.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberart13
JournalEcology and Society
Issue number2
Early online dateJun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • InVEST
  • land use and land cover maps
  • landscape
  • narrative scenarios
  • plausible futures
  • spatially explicit land use scenarios
  • translation rules


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