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

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© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Research article
15 Dec 2017
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript is under review for the journal Earth System Dynamics (ESD).
A global assessment of gross and net land change dynamics for current conditions and future scenarios
Richard Fuchs1,2, Reinhard Prestele1, and Peter H. Verburg1,3 1Environmental Geography group, Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), VU University Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1085, 1081 HV, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
2Land Use Change group, Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research – Atmospheric Environmental Research (IMK-IFU), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) – Campus Alpin, Kreuzeckbahnstraße 19, 82467, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
3Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, Zürcherstrasse 111, CH-8903, Birmensdorf, Switzerland
Abstract. The consideration of gross land changes, meaning all area gains and losses within a pixel or administrative unit (e.g. country), plays an essential role in the estimation of total land changes. Gross land changes affect the magnitude of total land changes, which feeds back to the attribution of biogeochemical and biophysical processes related to climate change in Earth System Models. Global empirical studies on gross land changes are currently lacking. Whilst the relevance of gross changes for global change has been indicated in the literature, it is not accounted for in future land change scenarios. In this study, we extract gross and net land change dynamics from large-scale and high-resolution (30–100 m) remote sensing products to create a new global gross and net change dataset. Subsequently, we developed an approach to integrate our empirically derived gross and net changes with the results of future simulation models, by accounting for the gross and net change addressed by the land use model and the gross and net change that is below the resolution of modelling. Based on our empirical data, we found that gross land change within 0.5-degree grid cells were substantially larger than net changes in all parts of the world. As 0.5-degree grid cells are a standard resolution of Earth System Models, this leads to an underestimation of the amount of change. This finding contradicts earlier studies, which assumed gross land changes to appear in shifting cultivation areas only. Applied in a future scenario, the consideration of gross land changes led to approximately 50 % more land changes globally compared to a net land change representation. Gross land changes were most important in heterogeneous land systems with multiple land uses (e.g. shifting cultivation, smallholder farming, and agro-forestry systems). Moreover, the importance of gross changes decreased over time due to further polarization and intensification of land use. Our results serve as empirical database for land change dynamics that can be applied in Earth System Models and Integrated Assessment Models.
Citation: Fuchs, R., Prestele, R., and Verburg, P. H.: A global assessment of gross and net land change dynamics for current conditions and future scenarios, Earth Syst. Dynam. Discuss.,, in review, 2017.
Richard Fuchs et al.
Richard Fuchs et al.
Richard Fuchs et al.


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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
We analyzed current global land change dynamics based on high-resolution (30–100 m) remote sensing products. We integrated this empirical data into a future simulation model to assess global land change dynamics in the future (2000 to 2040). The consideration of empirical derived land change dynamics in future models led globally to ca. 50 % more land changes than currently assumed by state-of-the-art model assumptions. This impacts the results of other global change studies (e.g. climate change).
We analyzed current global land change dynamics based on high-resolution (30–100 m) remote...