Future scenarios of European agricultural land use. II. Projecting changes in cropland and grassland

M.D.A. Rounsevell, F. Ewert, I. Reginster, R. Leemans, T.R. Carter

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This paper presents the development of quantitative, spatially explicit and alternative scenarios of future agricultural land use in Europe (the 15 European Union member states, Norway and Switzerland). The scenarios were constructed to support analyses of the vulnerability of ecosystem services, but the approach also provides an exploration of how agricultural land use might respond to a range of future environmental change drivers, including climate and socio-economic change. The baseline year was 2000 and the scenarios were constructed for 3 years (2020, 2050 and 2080) at a spatial resolution of 10 min latitude and longitude. Time slices were defined for the climate scenarios as the 10 years before 2020, 2050 and 2080. The scenarios were based on an interpretation of the four storylines of the Special Report on Emission Scenarios (SRES) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) using a simple supply/demand model of agricultural area quantities at the European scale and the disaggregation of these quantities using scenario-specific, spatial allocation rules. The scenarios demonstrate the importance of assumptions about technological development for future agricultural land use in Europe. If technology continues to progress at current rates then the area of agricultural land would need to decline substantially. Such declines will not occur if there is a correspondingly large increase in the demand for agricultural goods, or if political decisions are taken either to reduce crop productivity through policies that encourage extensification or to accept widespread overproduction. For the set of parameters assumed here, cropland and grassland areas (for the production of food and fibre) decline by as much as 50% of current areas for some scenarios. Such declines in production areas would result in large parts of Europe becoming surplus to the requirement of food and fibre production. Although it is difficult to anticipate how this land would be used in the future, it seems that continued urban expansion, recreational areas (such as for horse riding) and forest land use would all be likely to take up at least some of the surplus. Furthermore, whilst the substitution of food production by energy production was considered in these scenarios, surplus land would provide further opportunities for the cultivation of bioenergy crops
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-135
JournalAgriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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