How Are Feedbacks Represented in Land Models?

Yang Chen*, Martha Bakker, Arend Ligtenberg, Arnold Bregt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Land systems are characterised by many feedbacks that can result in complex system behaviour. We defined feedbacks as the two-way influences between the land use system and a related system (e.g., climate, soils and markets), both of which are encompassed by the land system. Land models that include feedbacks thus probably more accurately mimic how land systems respond to, e.g., policy or climate change. However, representing feedbacks in land models is a challenge. We reviewed articles incorporating feedbacks into land models and analysed each with predefined indicators. We found that (1) most modelled feedbacks couple land use systems with transport, soil and market systems, while only a few include feedbacks between land use and social systems or climate systems; (2) equation-based land use models that follow a top-down approach prevail; and (3) feedbacks’ effects on system behaviour remain relatively unexplored. We recommend that land system modellers (1) consider feedbacks between land use systems and social systems; (2) adopt (bottom-up) approaches suited to incorporating spatial heterogeneity and better representing land use decision-making; and (3) pay more attention to nonlinear system behaviour and its implications for land system management and policy.
Original languageEnglish
Article number29
Number of pages20
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Adaptation
  • Land system management and policy
  • Nonlinear behaviours
  • Regime shifts
  • Resilience
  • Tipping points


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