Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub
    Author(s): P. Meyfroidt; R. Roy Chowdhury; A. de Bremond; E.C. Ellis; K.-H Erb; T. Filatova; R.D. Garrett; J.M. Grove; A. Heinimann; T. Kuemmerle; C.A. Kull; E.F. Lambin; Y. Landon; Y. le Polain de Waroux; P. Messerli; D. Müller; J.Ø Nielsen; G.D. Peterson; V. Rodriguez García; M. Schlüter; B.L. Turner; P.H. Verburg
    Date: 2018
    Source: Global Environmental Change
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    Station: Northern Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (2.0 MB)

    Description

    Changes in land systems generate many sustainability challenges. Identifying more sustainable land-use alternatives requires solid theoretical foundations on the causes of land-use/cover changes. Land system science is a maturing field that has produced a wealth of methodological innovations and empirical observations on landcover and land-use change, from patterns and processes to causes. We take stock of this knowledge by reviewing and synthesizing the theories that explain the causal mechanisms of land-use change, including systemic linkages between distant land-use changes, with a focus on agriculture and forestry processes. We first review theories explaining changes in land-use extent, such as agricultural expansion, deforestation, frontier development, and land abandonment, and changes in land-use intensity, such as agricultural intensification and disintensification. We then synthesize theories of higher-level land system change processes, focusing on: (i) land-use spillovers, including land sparing and rebound effects with intensification, leakage, indirect land-use change, and land-use displacement, and (ii) land-use transitions, defined as structural non-linear changes in land systems, including forest transitions. Theories focusing on the causes of land system changes span theoretically and epistemologically disparate knowledge domains and build from deductive, abductive, and inductive approaches. A grand, integrated theory of land system change remains elusive. Yet, we show that middle-range theories – defined here as contextual generalizations that describe chains of causal mechanisms explaining a well-bounded range of phenomena, as well as the conditions that trigger, enable, or prevent these causal chains –, provide a path towards generalized knowledge of land systems. This knowledge can support progress towards sustainable social- ecological systems.

    Publication Notes

    • Check the Northern Research Station web site to request a printed copy of this publication.
    • Our on-line publications are scanned and captured using Adobe Acrobat.
    • During the capture process some typographical errors may occur.
    • Please contact Sharon Hobrla, shobrla@fs.fed.us if you notice any errors which make this publication unusable.
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.

    Citation

    Meyfroidt, P.; Roy Chowdhury, R.; de Bremond, A.; Ellis, E.C.; Erb, K.-H.; Filatova, T.; Garrett, R.D.; Grove, J.M.; Heinimann, A.; Kuemmerle, T.; Kull, C.A.; Lambin, E.F.; Landon, Y.; le Polain de Waroux, Y.; Messerli, P.; Müller, D.; Nielsen, J.Ø.; Peterson, G.D.; Rodriguez García, V.; Schlüter, M.; Turner, B.L.; Verburg, P.H. 2018. Middle-range theories of land system change. Global Environmental Change. 53: 52-67. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2018.08.006.

    Cited

    Google Scholar

    Keywords

    Human-environment systems, Box and arrow framework, Indirect land-use change, Land-use intensification, Deforestation, Land-use spillover, Urban dynamics

    Related Search


    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page
https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/56920