Insights and challenges on modelling future LUCC in mountainous regions

As a short introduction, the main objective of modelling future land use and cover changes (LUCC) consists in exploring the future using scenarios and models. It does not aim at predicting what will be the future but at considering various possible futures in order to provide knowledge to stakeholders to help decision making. On the one hand, interests of LUCC modelling is twofold: it focuses one of the main drivers in mountain changes (LUCC); it provides potential input maps to evaluate implications on ecosystem services. On the other hands, prospective LUCC modelling arise lot of debates mainly due the plural meanings of the terms used as simulations, scenarios and models.

Despite these advantages and drawbacks, exploring the future accounting for climate and land use changes is a strong trend in social and environmental science. This session aimed at giving an overview of current practices in terms of using scenarios and models and the use of models to assess the future implications of LUCC.

To summarize this session, based on the talks (showing interesting case studies worldwide) and the questions, a lot of work remain to improve future LUCC projections and the confidence users’ (stakeholders, local population…) can have in the models’ outcomes. A good overview of the different type of models has been shown (process-based and pattern-based models) underlining the fact that none is perfect. A clear message arise: exploring the future does not have to be considered as predictions but even more on delineating the range of future LUCC local population can face. The projections aim at providing knowledge to help them in the definition of land management strategy. Choosing one scenario is not the purpose of prospective modelling. The need of assessing the implications of possible future LUCC on hydrological regimes for example and ecosystems services in general is crucial to do so, as LUCC may have a strong influence.

Ethical issues arise from the various presentations. The use of spatially explicit LUCC scenarios to help decision makers has to be done carefully. Clarifying what are (and are not) their purposes is important. Models’ validation and calibration, using sensitivity analysis for instance, is probably one of the only way to improve the confidence in the outcomes. The more accurate the mode is, the greater confidence one can have. Even though, because no model is perfect, a simple model may be sufficient depending on the objectives of the prospective study.

Some insights have been identified and many challenges remain. Few questions ascend: How mountain areas have specific methodological implications for exploring the future? How could we better integrate land use changes and land cover changes in models or scenarios? How could we identify, define and limit the drivers of these LUCC? How could we translate narratives into models’ parameters?

First feedbacks of participants were very positive and I would like to thank them for their interest and participation. I would invite all of you in contributing to this blog by posting any comments, questions or feelings. Prospective has to main principles: democracy and transparency. Accounting for all different points of view is therefore constructive to better define our future challenges of future LUCC modelling.

Looking forward to your comments…

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