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A spatial allocation procedure to model land-use/land-cover changes: Accounting for occurrence and spread processes


  • Aquilué, Núria
  • De Cáceres, Miquel
  • Fortin, Marie-Josée
  • Fall, Andrew
  • Brotons, Lluís


Land-use/land-cover (LULC) change models integrate the effects of anthropogenic drivers of landscape change. Spatially explicit LULC change models help at understanding the landscape mosaic that emerges from the interplay between local-scale decisions as well as regional and national policies. These models produce valuable spatially explicit scenarios of LULC change that underpin biodiversity impact and ecosystem services assessments. Most raster-based LULC change models adopt the demand-allocation approach to simulate land transitions (i.e. the transformation of one land-cover type to another for a given spatial unit). In a demand-allocation framework the expert fixes the demand (or quantity of change) and the LULC change model uses a spatial procedure to allocate the change (i.e. to select the cells to be transformed to the target land-cover type). Here, we propose a spatial allocation procedure that builds on the assumption that land transitions occur in two phases: change occurrence and change spreading (or contagion). The allocation procedure uses a sorted queue of cells waiting to undergone change. Three parameters (rate of change occurrence, rate of change spreading and acceleration of change-contagion) control the order of cells order in the queue, and ultimately determine the emergence and extent of patches-of-change. We performed a sensitivity analysis where we show that the relation between both rates (i.e. change occurrence and change spreading) allows patches-of-change expand before other patches arise or vice versa. We provide a simple protocol to implement the allocation procedure as the core of a spatial explicit LULC change model, and we applied this protocol in the development of a new model, called MEDLUC, that intends to replicate the most relevant transitions observed in Mediterranean landscapes: urbanisation, rural abandonment and agriculture conversion. For Catalonia, a region in NE Spain, MEDLUC reproduces the empirical patches-of-change distributions from a 16-year period at two spatial resolutions (1km2 and 1ha). Overall, our allocation procedure performs better than a null model for urbanisation and rural abandonment at both resolutions, while it does worse when modelling agriculture conversion.

Suggested Citation

  • Aquilué, Núria & De Cáceres, Miquel & Fortin, Marie-Josée & Fall, Andrew & Brotons, Lluís, 2017. "A spatial allocation procedure to model land-use/land-cover changes: Accounting for occurrence and spread processes," Ecological Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 344(C), pages 73-86.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecomod:v:344:y:2017:i:c:p:73-86
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2016.11.005

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. K C Clarke & S Hoppen & L Gaydos, 1997. "A Self-Modifying Cellular Automaton Model of Historical Urbanization in the San Francisco Bay Area," Environment and Planning B, , vol. 24(2), pages 247-261, April.
    2. Castella, Jean-Christophe & Verburg, Peter H., 2007. "Combination of process-oriented and pattern-oriented models of land-use change in a mountain area of Vietnam," Ecological Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 202(3), pages 410-420.
    3. Renwick, Alan W. & Jansson, Torbjorn & Verburg, Peter H. & Revoredo-Giha, Cesar & Britz, Wolfgang & Gocht, Alexander & McCracken, Davy, 2011. "Policy Reform and Agricultural Land Abandonment," 85th Annual Conference, April 18-20, 2011, Warwick University, Coventry, UK 108772, Agricultural Economics Society.
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    Cited by:

    1. Pais, Silvana & Aquilué, Núria & Campos, João & Sil, Ângelo & Marcos, Bruno & Martínez-Freiría, Fernando & Domínguez, Jesús & Brotons, Lluís & Honrado, João P. & Regos, Adrián, 2020. "Mountain farmland protection and fire-smart management jointly reduce fire hazard and enhance biodiversity and carbon sequestration," Ecosystem Services, Elsevier, vol. 44(C).
    2. Canelles, Q. & Aquilué, N. & Duane, A. & Brotons, L., 2019. "From stand to landscape: modelling post-fire regeneration and species growth," Ecological Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 404(C), pages 103-111.


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