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Land Use Futures: Ecosystem Approach and Land Use Change

Mitigating and adapting to climate change includes a requirement to evaluate the role of future land uses in delivering robust integrated responses that are sensitive to local landscape contexts. Such land uses may be planned or changes which evolve as a consequence of drivers (e.g. demographic change, climate change, social innovation). They may also be response options selected by decision-makers to manage environmental change and meet sustainability objectives. This emphasises the needs for community engagement, planning and inclusive decision-making, all characteristics of the Ecosystem Approach, as envisaged under the Scottish Land Use Strategy, in line with international conventions (European Landscape Convention; Aarhus Convention). 

Community engagement may be facilitated by the use of spatially explicit quantitative scenarios of land-use change in combination with tools for enabling stakeholder participation in decisions about plans for future land use interactive visualisation.

This requires a coherent framework to integrate spatial data modelling, analytical capabilities and visualisation tools in a format that will also engage diverse public audiences.

These challenges were explored with a case study of virtual landscapes from N-E Scotland that was used to test preferences for scenarios of future land use. Visualisations employed texture-based rendering rather than full photo-realistic rendering to facilitate interactivity and this provided additional scope for audiences to explore multiple future scenarios compared to the present landscape.

Participant engagement was supported by tools which enabled the development and exploration of scenarios of alternative land use futures in a virtual reality environment (the Virtual Landscape Theatre).

Findings suggested public preferences for visual diversity, good stewardship and perceived naturalness that should be considered in developing planned responses to change.

Further investigation of preferences was conducted using interactive 3D features located within the landscape.

Technical advances were developed in user engagement in conjunction with emerging good practice that addresses ethical, behavioural and inclusion issues so that the content is presented in as transparent and unbiased format as possible.


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.