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Session Overview
209R: Agricultural land abandonment in the teleconnected world
Wednesday, 24/Apr/2019:
11:15am - 12:45pm

Session Chair: Alexander Prishchepov
Session Chair: Fabian Löw
Session Chair: Matthias Bürgi
Location: UniS-A 022
UniS Building, room A 022, ground floor, 72 seats
Session Topics:
What do people want from land?

Session Abstract

Agricultural land abandonment globally is a widespread land-use change process, but not sufficiently studied like other land-use change processes, such as deforestation. As a result, there has been little progress in understanding patterns, drivers, and consequences of land abandonment, particularly outside Europe. Our session seeks to highlight important advances in our understanding the drivers of agricultural land abandonment stretching from neoclassical to behavioral economics over to political and social science perspectives. The session is a platform for studies that carefully disentangle the effect of land-use legacies, trigger events (e.g., political shocks), telecoupled land-use systems, including rural-urban transformation, deagrarization of landscapes and economies. We expect the presenting of studies on implications of land abandonment to food security, human and environmental well-being and socio-ecological interactions. The session aims to shed light on the interaction of drivers of abandonment across various scales (from household to global level). While we are welcoming studies on remote sensing of patterns of land abandonment, earth science, and land use modeling of land abandonment, such studies should be presented in an integrative manner to address the topic of the session and the broader audience of the conference. The session is linked with Land MDPI special issue "Agricultural Land Abandonment: Patterns, Drivers, and Consequences". Presenters will be encouraged to submit their works to the special issue.

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Full talk
ID: 732 / 209R: 1
209R Agricultural land abandonment in the teleconnected world
Keywords: abandonment, drivers, land use intensity

Drivers of agricultural land abandonment: moving beyond the myths

Alexander V. Prishchepov1,2,3, Arne Brandschwede1, Nick Cooper1, Ruslan Gunko1, Auni Haapala1, Sebastian Toft Hornum1, Hoi Ying Yau1

1Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management (IGN), University of Copenhagen, Øster Voldgade 10, DK-1350 København K, Denmark; 2Institute of Environmental Sciences, Kazan Federal University, Kazan, Tovarishcheskaya str.5, Kazan, 420097, Russia.; 3Institute of Steppe of the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Pionerskaya str.11, Orenburg 460000, Russia.

Growing global demand for agricultural products has resulted in agricultural expansion at the expense of environmental frontiers, and such demand is likely to increase in the future. At the same time, agricultural land abandonment is widespread globally, including land-scarce regions of the world, and has various implications for biodiversity, biogeochemical cycles and societal well-being. Despite the efforts to understand the patterns and drivers of land abandonment, we know very little about the underlying causes of land abandonment. Here, an international peer-reviewed literature indexed in Web of Science systematically has been revised. Out of 300 initially selected publications from 1954 to 2014, we finally selected 54 peer-reviewed articles, which employed the statistical models in explaining the patterns of abandonment. We applied the concept of Geist and Lambin 2002 Bioscience on proximate and underlying causes of land-use change. Our meta-analysis showed while studies covered 74 different case study locations, the research has been primarily concentrated in Europe and the former Soviet Union, despite that land abandonment is a common land-use change process worldwide. The meta-analysis clearly showed the dominance of inclusion of environmental-site conditions variables (e.g., soil types, elevation), as well as demography and variables representing the distances to settlements and markers (a proxy for economic costs of agricultural production). We found a lack of understanding of institutional, land tenure and sociocultural factors, as well as technological changes in farming. The logistic regression cross-sectional models dominated the quantitative studies on determinants of land abandonment. While a recent overall increase in utility of machine-learning methods became quite popular too, the employment of simplified cross-sectional models rather models, which allow establishing causal inference and the understudy of underlying causes of land abandonment is worrisome, because such studies are often picked for synthesis and policy documents, thus making wrong inferences about the actual drivers of land abandonment. Last but not least, either agricultural abandonment or cropland abandonment studied, with little efforts so far in understanding changes in grazing and mowing intensity, thus indicating potential research directions.

Full talk
ID: 573 / 209R: 2
209R Agricultural land abandonment in the teleconnected world
Keywords: Agricultural Land Abandonment, Forest Succession, Landsat, Time Series, Google Earth Engine

Mapping agricultural land abandonment in central poland since 1984 with landsat time series

Natalia Kolecka, Jacek Kozak, Dominik Kaim

Jagiellonian University, Faculty of Geography and Geology, Institute of Geography and Spatial Management, Poland

Agricultural land abandonment (ALA) is one of the major land use and land cover (LULC) changes in Europe since the 19th century. Spatial and temporal mapping of ALA is essential for understanding its determinants and environmental and socio-economic consequences. In Central and Eastern Europe, cessation of agricultural practices accelerated rapidly in the early 1990s due to socio-economic transformation, resulting in encroachment of successional vegetation and forest regrowth. Remote sensing time series has proven to be effective in evaluating long-term trends in LULC change using vegetation indices, such as Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) or Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI). Nowadays, the cloud computing platforms, like Google Earth Engine (GEE) provide the full repositories of remote sensing data and enable to perform rapid large-scale data analysis.

In this study, a time series of about 2000 Landsat 5, 7, and 8 images was processed in GEE in order to map agricultural land abandonment in central Poland between 1984 and 2018, thus including the 1990s socio-economic transformation and EU accession in 2004. Annual statistics (maximum, median and standard deviation) of NDVI and EVI over summer months (June – September) were utilised to (1) identify cropland in mid-1980’s using machine learning and morphological filtering, and to (2) investigate greening changes in the following 34 years by means of the general trend and inter-annual dynamics of NDVI over the analysed period. The NDVI dynamics since 1984 were combined with the land parcel identification system (LPIS) data from 2018 showing actual land use, and helped to verify how the greening trend was related to land abandonment and successional vegetation encroachment.

We found that ALA was widespread in central Poland, and even more than half of land cultivated in mid-1980’s experienced greening. ALA occurred not only in the neighbourhood of forest, but also in the vicinity of cultivated cropland. Partially, agricultural land has been turned into residential and infrastructural use due to urban sprawl. We conclude, that Landsat time series were effective in ALA detection, despite the Landsat spatial resolution and small or narrow parcels within the study area. NDVI annual composites significantly reduced the data set size, but maintained information important for identification of LULC change.

Full talk
ID: 844 / 209R: 3
209R Agricultural land abandonment in the teleconnected world
Keywords: literature review; local knowledge; MENA countries; local identity; Cultural heritage

Exploring social-ecological outcomes of land abandonment in the Mediterranean Basin

Cristina Quintas-Soriano, Tobias Plieninger, Andreas Bürkert

University of Kassel, Germany

Mediterranean landscapes have been shaped through centuries by human activities in often harsh environmental conditions. These modifications have resulted in diverse land systems with high cultural values and of high importance for regional food production. In the Mediterranean region, landscapes are subject to two contrasting processes of change interrelated: the intensification and increasing human influence on one side, and the abandonment of rural, mountainous and less developed areas on the other. Land abandonment is one of the major threats to sustainable land use worldwide. Particularly in the Mediterranean is considered as one of the major land use changes with important environmental and cultural threats, since substantial areas have been affected, particularly prominent in South-eastern Europe. However, currently no scientific consensus regarding the most favorable management of abandoned land exists, because the consequences of land abandonment are very diverse across regions and are not clear. In this study, we address this knowledge gap by synthesizing research that analyses how land abandonment affects both ecosystem services and human well-being in Mediterranean countries. A total of 268 peer review papers were selected plus additional key grey literature was included in the database to cover the whole Mediterranean Region. Overall, we found a research gap on North Africa and Middle East Mediterranean countries, while South Europe showed high levels of research. Our results show that agricultural land abandonment is rarely found to lead to simultaneous positive ecosystem service and well-being outcomes. The results obtained may be of particular interest to policy and decision makers involved in rural development planning in the Mediterranean region.

Flash talk
ID: 736 / 209R: 4
209R Agricultural land abandonment in the teleconnected world
Keywords: rural abandonment, ghost villages, northern France

Agent-based modelling of rural abandonment patterns: a case-study in northern France

Anton Van Rompaey, Bram Vandeninden

KU Leuven, Belgium

Many remote rural areas in the Global North are experiencing a decline in their population due to ongoing rural-urban migrations especially of young people and families. Reasons for these migrations are a lack of employment opportunities and available services for these young families such as shops, schools, sports infrastructure and health facilities.

Because of this emigration some villages get into a feedback-loop whereby the departure of young families results in the closure of schools and commerces triggering others to leave as well. This resultss in nearly empty villages (also called ghost villages) where no services are left and the majority of the houses is not inhabited leading to their physical degradation and social isolation of the elderly that left behind.

This paper aims at getting a deeper insight in the genesis of such ghost villages by analyzing rural depopulation over the last 40 years in the “Département Marne” in northern France. On the basis of household interviews with elderly still living in the depopulated villages motivations and patterns of the emigration process were mapped. Next, an agent-based model was developed that describes the interaction between a village population and the available services. The results show a sharp tipping point between the survival and even growth of a village and the complete collapse. Finally, the model was extrapolated to assess population numbers in the rural Marne for the year 2040, including alternative policy scenario’s such as the promotion of rural tourism and the transformation into eco-villages.

Flash talk
ID: 689 / 209R: 5
209R Agricultural land abandonment in the teleconnected world
Keywords: Mountain pastureland, common use, privatization, sustainability, Central Asia

Uneven use of pastureland in the Alai Valley, southern Kyrgyzstan

Teiji Watanabe1, Shigeru Shirasaka2, Jie Liu3

1Hokkaido University, Japan; 2Rikkyo University, Japan; 3Weather News, Japan

Pasturelands in the Alai Valley, southern Kyrgyzstan, are used as common land. The country of Kyrgyzstan started to decentralize the management of the pastureland. With the decentralization, every villages have been ordered to create a local pasture committee. The current pastureland use is based on the land-use legacy of the Soviet-time, but not based on the pasture-committee’s management strategy. This means that the newly enforced law, i.e., a trigger towards an effective local management, does not work in the area. There are uneven use of the pasturelands: pasturelands near the main roads and settlements tend to be overgrazed, and distant pasturelands are underused or abandoned. The reason is strongly related to the poverty after the independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The pastureland users are divided into two: one is the residents in the Alai Valley; and the other is the outsiders. The outsides use the summer pasturelands in the Alai Valley, located far away from their home settlements, while they use the winter pasturelands in their home settlements. This teleconnected use of the summer pasturelands causes the overgrazing in the Alai Valley. Some of the local pasture committees in the Alai Valley, which we visited, are not equipped with the knowledge on the pastureland management. Strengthen the committees is urgent for the future sustainability in the pasturelands in the area.

Full talk
ID: 738 / 209R: 6
211R Advances in land monitoring for sustainable development
Keywords: abandonment, Landsat, fire, grazing, grasslands

Mapping agricultural abandonment and assessing its consequences

Andrey Dara1,2, Tobias Kuemmerle1,3, Matthias Baumann1, Johannes Kamp4, Norbert Hölzel4, Martin Freitag4, Patrick Hostert1,3

1Humboldt-Unversität zu Berlin, Germany; 2Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Transition Economies (IAMO), Halle (Saale), Germany; 3IRI THESys, Berlin, Germany; 4University of Muenster, Muenser, Germany

Temperate grasslands are widespread, provide important ecosystem services, and often provide good conditions for agriculture. Many temperate grasslands are as a result undergoing agricultural land-use change, and better understanding these changes is important. This is particularly so for the Eurasian steppes, which are generally under-researched and where land-use change after the breakdown of the Soviet Union has been widespread. Here, we focused on the temperate steppes of Kazakhstan, and monitored how management intensity and fire regimes have changed during post-Soviet times. We developed an approach to identify post-Soviet cropland abandonment and recultivation in northern Kazakhstan, based on annual Landsat time series. Knowing the timing of abandonment allowed for deeper insights into what drives these dynamics: for example, recultivation after 2007 happened mainly on lands that had been abandoned last, and these are the most productive croplands that were abandoned. Likewise, knowing the timing of abandonment allowed for substantially more precise estimates of soil organic carbon sequestration. Mapping changes in fire regimes (i.e. extent, number and size of fires) highlight a sevenfold increase in burned area and a eightfold increase in fire frequency after the breakdown of the Soviet Union. Most of the increase in fires occurred on active cropland, highlighting the role of fire as a management tool in this region and explaining why this region has recently turned into a global fire hotspot. Cropland and rangeland abandonment were also associated with increased fire risk, particularly in remote parts of the steppe where grazing pressure has declined substantially. Collectively, our analyses highlight how dense records of Landsat images can be utilized to understand land use change and the ecology of steppes across large areas.

Flash talk
ID: 876 / 209R: 7
209R Agricultural land abandonment in the teleconnected world
Keywords: abandoned cropland, spatial patterns, land-use change, Rio Grande/Río Bravo

Spatial patterns of agricultural land abandonment and implications for water management in the U.S. Rio Grande basin

Sophie Plassin, Jennifer Koch, Madison Wilson, Neal Kevin

University of Oklahoma, United States of America

Despite arid conditions and water scarcity, agriculture expanded over the last few centuries across the Southwestern United States. This has been possible through the construction of extensive engineering for water storage and diversion of water from large rivers such as the Rio Grande/Río Bravo. From its headwater in the Rocky Mountains up to its mouth in the Gulf of Mexico, the Rio Grande, the fifth longest river in North America, supplies drinking water for more than 10 million people and irrigation for about 800,000 hectares of agricultural land. While water resources of the Rio Grande support economies, rural and urban communities, endemic species and ecosystems, they are at the same time increasingly under pressure due to recurring droughts and a growing population. This increase, in conjunction with several socio-economic factors (agricultural policies, markets demands, ageing of the agricultural population), is likely to be an important driver of cropland abandonment. In fact, previous studies already reported local transfers of water rights from agricultural to municipal uses and retirement of croplands. Despite the environmental, cultural, and economic consequences of land-use change in this region, the assessment of the spatial extent and the location of agricultural land abandonment remains poorly studied across the U.S. Rio Grande basin. We aim to fill this gap by analyzing the spatial patterns of recent agricultural land abandonment across scales (locally and regionally). Our hypothesis is that cropland abandonment (conversion of cropland to fallow or barren land) is widespread across the basin but occurs more frequently in desert and steppe regions and closer to the big cities. To test this hypothesis, this study proposes to conduct a spatial analysis of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Cropland Data Layer (CDL), an annual satellite imagery-derived land cover map at a 30-m resolution, available since 2008. Our presentation will discuss the outcomes of the analysis and the implications of the results for sustainable water management in the U.S. Rio Grande basin.

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