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A spatial-explicit scenario analysis for assessing the effects of land cover changes on ecosystem services

22 April 2014, 11am: Free
at the James Hutton Institute, Aberdeen AB15 8QH
for scientists, students and other interested parties
Sandra Luque

Dr Sandra Luque will deliver a seminar entitled "A spatial-explicit scenario analysis for assessing the effects of land cover changes on ecosystem servicesat the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen. She is Research Director at IRSTEA (National Research Institute of Science and Technology for Environment and Agriculture), France and a Visiting Scholar at the Centre for GeoInformatics, School of Geography and Geosciences at the University of St Andrews. The seminar will be broadcast live to the Dundee site.


Information on land cover and land cover change is believed to be one of the benchmark data sets because of its value as an environmental change indicator. In a world of shrinking forests worldwide, Europe is expanding its forest area. This poses forest planners and policy makers with a difficult task: how to make decisions that affect the future delivery of ecosystem services when faced by rapid land cover change shifts? One approach is to consider how a range of futures may unfold and stimulate interdisciplinary debate about land cover changes scenarios. Given the relationship between space and time scales appropriate for observing different aspects of patterns and processes, the understanding of forest dynamics can only be perceived on a scale of tens to hundreds of years.

We used Dinamica-EGO, a spatially explicit simulation model of landscape dynamics that presents multi-scale vicinity-based transitional functions to develop plausible scenarios of future land-cover change trajectories in the Vercors Mountains (French Alps). The area is considered as a forested "hot spot" of biodiversity for Europe and also part of a LTSER worldwide network. This model is parameterised with knowledge on past landscape trajectories, from 1840 to 2000s, biophysical variables and socio-economic constraints. Landscape trajectories revealed by this model confirm past trends like closure of pasture and loss of farmlands and increasing artificialisation in the valley.

We moved forward on scenario development that has direct application to improve forest management and conservation within an ecologically intensive agricultural context. Therefore, we brought the future trends of land-cover face to face with environmental conditions using biodiversity indicators, potentiality of production and forest accessibility parameters.

This case study is part of the EU FP7 OpenNess project and is still work in progress, therefore a discussion and exchange it is expected to build up common research interests.


Dr Sandra Luque has a PhD in Geography with Specialisation on Landscape Ecology from Rutgers The State University of New Jersey (USA). Also a HDR « Habilitation à Diriger des Recherches » Université Joseph Fourier Grenoble I, from France. She is a former NASA Fellow on Global Change research from the Earth Observation Programme. She was GIS/Remote Sensing expert for DFID (Department for International Development) working at the University of Wales, Bangor, UK. She then took a Research Fellow position at Lucy Cavendish College Cambridge under a Daphne Jackson Trust Research Fellowship for Women in Science at the Geography Department, University of Cambridge, UK. In 2001 she was invited as a Senior Research Scientist at METLA Finnish Forest Research Institute, Helsinki, Finland until 2006. Then she moved into France to take a senior position financed by Ministry of Research. She has authored articles and book chapters on forest landscape ecology, remote sensing, temporal and spatial changes, lately she published on conservation value and forest related ecosystem services.

Her research focuses on four main areas:

  • (i) the understanding of the dynamics of forest ecosystems in a landscape context across multiple spatial and temporal scales including scenario analysis
  • (ii) work towards effective methods for linking landscape ecology with remotely-sensed data within a geographic information systems (GIS) framework to extract specific, user-oriented information at multiple scales on ecosystems and landscapes
  • (iii) development of forest habitat suitability models and indicators to asses biodiversity value
  • (iv) explore management strategies and associated services that enable a sustainable and multiple use of forest resources and adaptive management in different geographical regions.

Working in international funded research projects has provided her with the experience of operating in multidisciplinary teams from government and international organisations. In addition, one of her most rewarding experiences has been in teaching students from different cultural backgrounds and nationalities. She is currently the nominated Chair for the IUFRO Working Party “Forest Landscape Ecology” (Division 8), the group has more than 650 experts all over the world. She was elected Vice-president of IALE (International Association for Landscape Ecology) where she served from 2005 to 2013; at present she is one of the coordinator editors for Landscape Ecology Journal edited by Springer.

As a scientist trained within the Earth System Science community, she would like to see much more interdisciplinary research to actually bridge the many existing gaps to work towards the new challenges and endeavours of human social and ecological processes within the global change agenda.

The seminar is being hosted by Professor Alison Hester.

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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.