The Environmental Geography group studies processes of land change at scales ranging from local to global and has a long track record in developing world-leading land change models.

The majority of the earth’s land surface has been altered by humans, predominantly to produce food, feed and to provide shelter. These alterations have caused many changes in land cover, including a decrease in forest cover and other natural areas, and an increase in cropland and built-up areas. However, land change does not necessarily lead to land cover change: intensification of agricultural land management and changes from subsistence to market oriented agriculture may have strong impacts on the functioning of the land system and its impacts on human well-being.

As different scales require different approaches, we employ a range of methods including case studies, meta-studies, land-change modelling, and spatial analysis to analyze land change. Insight in spatial distribution and the ability to project future changes is a tool to synthesize our understanding of the land system and initiate discussions about the spatial diversity and potential futures of land use.

Characteristic for our approach is:

  • the notion of land systems as socio-ecological systems in which land use and land cover are the result of dynamic interactions of humans with their environment
  • the multi-scale approach in which local dynamics are influenced by global processes and where local responses feed back to the well-being of the global population
  • the use of quantitative, spatially explicit methods and models to inform, initiate and nuance discussions with stakeholders and policy makers, using historic and scenario analysis to inform a more sustained use of the land for the future

Selected key publications: