A high-resolution and harmonized model approach for reconstructing and analyzing historic land changes in Europe

Fuchs, R.; Herold, M.; Verburg, P. H.; W. Clevers, J. G. P.
October 2012
Biogeosciences Discussions;2012, Vol. 9 Issue 10, p14823
Academic Journal
Currently, up to 30% of global carbon emission is estimated to originate from land use and land changes. Existing historic land change reconstructions on the European scale do not sufficiently meet the requirements of greenhouse gas (GHG) and climate assessments, due to insufficient spatial and thematic detail and the consideration of various land change types. This paper investigates if the combination of different data sources, more detailed modeling techniques and the integration of land conversion types allow us to create accurate, high resolution historic land change data for Europe suited for the needs of GHG and climate assessments. We validated our reconstruction with historic aerial photographs from 1950 and 1990 for 73 sample sites across Europe and compared it with other land reconstructions like Klein Goldewijk et al. (2010, 2011), Ramankutty and Foley (1999), Pongratz et al. (2008) and Hurtt et al. (2006). The results indicate that almost 700 000 km² (15.5 %) of land cover in Europe changes over the period 1950 to 2010, an area similar to France. In Southern Europe the relative amount was almost 3.5% higher than average (19 %). Based on the results the specific types of conversion, hot-spots of change and their relation to political decisions and socioeconomic transitions were studied. The analysis indicate that the main drivers of land change over the studied period were urbanization, the reforestation program after the timber shortage since the Second World War, the fall of the Iron Curtain, Common Agricultural Policy and accompanying afforestation actions of the EU. Compared to existing land cover reconstructions, the new method takes stock of the harmonization of different datasets by achieving a high spatial resolution and regional detail with a full coverage of different land categories. These characteristic allow the data to be used to support and improve ongoing GHG inventories and climate research.


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