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Earth System Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union

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© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Short communication
31 Aug 2016
Review status
A revision of this discussion paper was accepted for the journal Earth System Dynamics (ESD) and is expected to appear here in due course.
Current challenges of implementing land-use and land-cover change in climate assessments
Reinhard Prestele1, Almut Arneth2, Alberte Bondeau3, Nathalie de Noblet-Ducoudré4, Thomas A. M. Pugh2,5, Stephen Sitch6, Elke Stehfest7, and Peter H. Verburg1,8 1Environmental Geography Group, Department of Earth Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1087, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands
2Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Department Atmospheric Environmental Research (IMK-IFU), Kreuzeckbahnstr. 19, 82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
3Institut M éditerranéen de Biodiversité et d ’ Écologie marine et continentale, Aix - Marseille Université, CNRS, IRD, Avignon Université, Technopôle Arbois-Méditerranée, Bâtiment Villemin, BP 80, 13545 Aix-en-Provence CEDEX 4, France
4Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement, 91190 Gif-sur-Yvette, France
5School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Science and Birmingham Institute of Forest Research, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK
6School of Geography, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK
7PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, P.O. Box 303, 3720 AH Bilthoven, The Netherlands
8Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Zürcherstr. 111, CH-8903 Birmensdorf, Switzerland
Abstract. Land-use and land-cover change (LULCC) represents one of the key drivers of global environmental change. However, the processes and drivers of anthropogenic land-use activity are still overly simplistically implemented in Dynamic Global Vegetation Models (DGVMs) and Earth System Models (ESMs), whose published results are used in major assessments of processes and impacts of global environmental change such as the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In the absence of coupled models of climate, land use and biogeochemical cycles to explore land use – climate interactions across spatial scales, information on LULCC is currently provided as exogenous data from the land-use change modules of Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) to ESMs and DGVMs, while data from dedicated land-use change models (LUCMs) are rarely considered. In this article, we discuss major uncertainties and existing shortcomings of current implementation strategies originating in both LULCC data-provider and LULCC data-user communities. We identify, based on literature review and the analysis of empirical and modeled LULCC data, three major challenges related to LULCC representation, which are currently not or insufficiently accounted for: (1) provision of consistent, harmonized LULCC time series spanning from historical reconstructions to future projections while accounting for uncertainties due to different land-use modeling approaches, (2) accounting for sub-grid processes and bi-directional changes (gross changes) across spatial scales and (3) the allocation strategy of LULCC at the grid cell level in ESMs and DGVMs. Based on these three challenges, we discuss the reasons that hamper the development of implementation strategies that sufficiently account for uncertainties in the land-use modeling process and conclude that both providers and users of LULCC data products often miss appropriate knowledge of the requirements and constraints of one another’s models, thus leading to large discrepancies between the representation of LULCC data and processes in both communities. We propose to focus future research on the joint development and evaluation of enhanced LULCC time series, which account for the diversity of LULCC modeling and increasingly include empirically based information about sub-grid processes and land-use transition trajectories.

Citation: Prestele, R., Arneth, A., Bondeau, A., de Noblet-Ducoudré, N., Pugh, T. A. M., Sitch, S., Stehfest, E., and Verburg, P. H.: Current challenges of implementing land-use and land-cover change in climate assessments, Earth Syst. Dynam. Discuss., doi:10.5194/esd-2016-39, in review, 2016.
Reinhard Prestele et al.
Reinhard Prestele et al.


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Short summary
Land-use change is still overly simplistically implemented in global ecosystem and climate models. We identify and discuss three major challenges at the interface of land-use and climate modeling and propose pathways how to improve land use representation in climate models. We conclude that land-use data provider and user communities need to engage in the joint development and evaluation of enhanced land-use datasets to improve the quantification of land use – climate interactions and feedbacks.
Land-use change is still overly simplistically implemented in global ecosystem and climate...