Key determinants of global land-use projections

Elke Stehfest*, Willem Jan van Zeist, Hugo Valin, Petr Havlik, Alexander Popp, Page Kyle, Andrzej Tabeau, Daniel Mason-D’Croz, Tomoko Hasegawa, Benjamin L. Bodirsky, Katherine Calvin, Jonathan C. Doelman, Shinichiro Fujimori, Florian Humpenöder, Hermann Lotze-Campen, Hans van Meijl, Keith Wiebe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

72 Citations (Scopus)


Land use is at the core of various sustainable development goals. Long-term climate foresight studies have structured their recent analyses around five socio-economic pathways (SSPs), with consistent storylines of future macroeconomic and societal developments; however, model quantification of these scenarios shows substantial heterogeneity in land-use projections. Here we build on a recently developed sensitivity approach to identify how future land use depends on six distinct socio-economic drivers (population, wealth, consumption preferences, agricultural productivity, land-use regulation, and trade) and their interactions. Spread across models arises mostly from diverging sensitivities to long-term drivers and from various representations of land-use regulation and trade, calling for reconciliation efforts and more empirical research. Most influential determinants for future cropland and pasture extent are population and agricultural efficiency. Furthermore, land-use regulation and consumption changes can play a key role in reducing both land use and food-security risks, and need to be central elements in sustainable development strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2166
Number of pages10
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2019


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