Sensitising rural policy: Assessing spatial variation in rural development options for Europe

D.B. van Berkel, P.H. Verburg

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Regional distinctiveness is supported by the European Union in rural development policy. However, there is little information about the spatial distribution of the potential for rural development across Europe. The concept of territorial capital is used to consider spatial characteristics in assessing the capacity for rural development. Expert-based descriptions of territorial capital are translated into mappable proxies to locate regions with development capacities in intensive agriculture, off-farm employment, rural tourism and conservation. Combining these potentials, the capacity for multiple functions within regions is assessed. A partial validation of the expert-based weighing of territorial capital is done by comparison with an empirical approach based on logistic regression. The results indicate strong variation between regions in rural development potentials. In Western Europe, regions with high rural tourism probability also share a high potential for conservation while opportunities for intensive agriculture and off-farm employment are generally low. In other parts of Europe these correlations are less pronounced. Several regions offer limited potential in all four considered functions while few regions have potential in all four functions. The assessment provides policymakers with assistance in identifying competitive rural development projects. Targeting rural development policies to high potential areas may increase policy efficiency. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447-459
JournalLand Use Policy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • ecosystem services
  • land-use
  • multifunctional agriculture
  • habitat fragmentation
  • scenario development
  • landscapes
  • future
  • areas
  • diversification
  • conservation

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