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Scenarios and land use futures

This page is no longer updated. The information presented here formed part of our previous areas of research. This has included research carried out on behalf of our research partners, commerical contracts and also the Scottish Goverment's Strategic research programme during the period 2011 - 2016.

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Environmental, economic and social issues associated with agriculture are often fundamental for rural prosperity and sustainability, with consequent implications for any debate about future land use. A key to supporting the planning of change is to understand the capability of the land for uses such as agriculture for the future as well as today, and the ecosystem service supply and land uses they can support.

We are creating a series of new models of land capability for different ecosystem services at different scales and trade-offs in values between combinations of ecosystem services. This work uses spatial frameworks for ecosystems, multi-functional rural and urban land use, and landscape capacity for change, and targets aims of the Scottish Land Use Strategy.

Land use scenarios

The evaluation of multiple benefits from land (‘multifunctional land use’) is being investigated through the development of land use change scenarios as part of an ecosystem approach to land management.

 Figure 1: Scenario framework with land use change storylines

Figure 1: Scenario framework with land use change storylines

These combine different coherent options of land uses and land management, and consider consequences of climate change, present and future. The LandSFACTS toolkit was developed to support the development of spatial scenarios from field to national scale, for snapshots in time through to multiple years.

Figure 2: Spatial land use scenarios, River Dee, and Tarland sub-catchment

Figure 2: Spatial land use scenarios for the River Dee catchment and the Tarland sub-catchment in north east Scotland.

These land use change scenarios have been used to evaluate consequences for water quality in the River Dee catchment in north east Scotland, and assessing risks to the environment, economy and society, and resulting priorities of climate change adaptation, through the Centre of Expertise on Climate Change (CXC).

Figure 3: Assessment of different land use scenarios on ecosystem services, at different scales

Figure 3: Assessment of different land use scenarios on ecosystem service for the River Dee catchment and Tarland sub-catchment.

Assessments of changes in water supply/demand budgets are enabling studies of interactions between land use, climate change and water resources, through the Centre of Expertise for Waters (CREW). Our new typology of different land managers then enables us to better understand different motivations and preferences towards multi-functional land use and characterisation of the choices identified by the scenarios.

Community scenario development

We use visualization tools (for example, the Virtual Landscape Theatre) to interpret scenarios of land use change through public preferences for landscapes, and elicit scenarios of preferred future land uses from audiences familiar and unfamiliar with an area.

Figure 4: Community development of local stewardship scenarios using virtual reality tools.

Figure 4: Community development of local stewardship scenarios using virtual reality tools.

In the study of the Tarland sub-catchment of the Dee, our findings show significant differences between audiences related to medium-sized wind farms on hills north of the village. Those unfamiliar with the area (Birmingham and some in Edinburgh) argued that renewable energy was a priority and highlighted open hilltops as opportunities for maximising energy return. Those familiar with the area, even if not residents, were conscious of the local significance of prominent hills and previous rejections of wind farm proposals, with audiences in Edinburgh and Ballater being positive towards small-scale wind turbines associated with farming or communities. However, there was commonality between audiences for increasing amenity woodland adjacent to the village, quality recreation within the village, conservation interests, and recognition of risks to water quality with increased agricultural activity.

Contact: Iain Brown


Areas of Interest

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.