Land use transitions: Socio-ecological feedback versus socio-economic change


The concept of land use transition highlights that land use change is non-linear and is associated with other societal and biophysical system changes. A transition in land use is not a fixed pattern, nor is it deterministic. Land use transitions can be caused by negative socio-ecological feedbacks that arise from a depletion of key resources or from socio-economic change and innovation that take place rather independently from the ecological system. Here, we explore whether the sources of land use transitions are mostly endogenous socio-ecological forces or exogenous socio-economic factors. We first review a few generic pathways of forest transition as identified in national case studies, and evaluate the varying ecological quality of expanding forests associated with these pathways. We then discuss possible explanatory frameworks of land use transitions. We use the case of the recent forest transition in Vietnam as an illustration. Socio-ecological feedbacks seem to better explain a slowing down of deforestation and stabilization of forest cover, while exogenous socio-economic factors better account for reforestation. We conclude by discussing the prospects of accelerating land use transitions in tropical forest countries. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Land Use Policy
Patrick Meyfroidt
Patrick Meyfroidt
Professor of Land Systems and Sustainability Science

My research focuses on how land systems can contribute to sustainability.