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Challenges of land systems research

 

To the background of the questions raised above, the VOLANTE project has fundamentally addressed some of the grand challenges of land systems research. Land systems not only provide food, feed and fibre, but also building materials, bio-energy and increasingly a broad range of other products. Moreover, ecosystem services such as cultural and social landscape values are closely connected to the functioning of land systems whereas regulating services such as flood regulation and carbon sequestration, pollination and biocontrol of pests play a crucial role as well. Two major challenges in studying the links between human transformations of land systems and the changing role of land systems are (a) up-scaling of local and regional process understanding to achieve global process understanding, and (b) integrating the societal and environmental dimensions of the land system problem.

In the most recent decades many studies have addressed the possible land cover consequences of changing demographic and socio-economic conditions of Europe, the increasingly complex connections between nature and human beings that are growing ever tighter in a more globalised world, and multiple competing demands on services from land resources. Both retrospect analysis of the dynamics as they have occurred over the past period, and scenario studies for future have been performed. Scenario studies are a useful tool to explore the land use consequences of unknown developments in demographic, socio-economic and policy conditions. Scenarios often aim at showing the alternative trajectories of change under different, plausible, developments of the driving factors of land use change. Most of the previous scenarios studies have focussed on either analysing land cover changes or have addressed a single sector only.

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