Land use and land cover scenarios: An interdisciplinary approach integrating local conditions and the global shared socioeconomic pathways

L.C. Gomes*, F.J.J.A. Bianchi, I.M. Cardoso, R.P.O. Schulte, B.J.M. Arts, E.I. Fernandes Filho

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Land Use and Land Cover (LULC) changes have profound impacts on the functioning of (agro)ecosystems and have potential to mitigate global climate change. However, we still lack interdisciplinary methods to project future LULC scenarios at spatial scales that are relevant for local decision making and future environmental assessments. Here we apply an interdisciplinary approach to develop spatially explicit projections of LULC at a resolution of 30 × 30 m informed by historic relationships between LULC and their key drivers, within the context of the four qualitative scenarios of global shared socioeconomic pathways. We apply this methodology to a case study in the Zona da Mata, Brazil, which has a history of major LULC changes. The analysis of LULC changes from 1986 to 2015 indicates that pasture area decreased from 76 to 58 % of total area, while forest areas increased from 18 to 24 %, and coffee from 3 to 11 %. Environmental protection legislation, rural credit for smallholder farmers, and demand for agricultural and raw products were identified as main drivers of LULC changes. Projected LULC for 2045 strongly depends on the global socioeconomic pathway scenarios, and forest and coffee areas may increase substantially under strong government measures in the environmentally conscious Green Road scenario or decrease in the high consumption Rocky Road scenario. Our study shows that under the set of drivers during the past three decades reforestation can go hand in hand with increase of agricultural production, but that major and contrasting changes in LULC can be expected depending on the socioeconomic pathway that will be followed in the future. To guide this process, LULC scenarios at the local scale can inform the planning of local and regional development and forest conservation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104723
JournalLand Use Policy
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


  • Forest transition
  • Future scenarios
  • Interdisciplinarity
  • Land use
  • Public policies


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