Welcome to the Future cultural landscape dynamics explorer

Welcome to the Future cultural landscape dynamics explorer


This explorer contains data from work Package 5, where a model-based assessment of processes of change in cultural landscapes were made. This deliverable evaluates potential future threats to cultural landscapes at a European scale.

Based on population projections and changes in global trade (liberalized or regulated), land use regulation (level of forest protection), bioenergy demand and other factors, the demand for agricultural land and urban in each world region by 2040 was simulated with a series of economic models. Within Europe, these areas of land that are required were next allocated to the most likely locations in Europe. Which locations are the most likely depends on the biophysical characteristics of the landscape, but also on land use in the vicinity, policies that protect or stimulate specific land use or specific areas, and on the present-day land use.

Explore the map or read more information below.


Reference scenarios as defined by VOLANTE project.

Volante scenario setup

An analysis of future land use changes in Europe up to 2040 has been done in the VOLANTE FP7 project. VOLANTE used a set of explorative scenarios based on SRES as reference scenarios (figure above) and additionally explored a range of policy options, which disentangle and highlight the impact of, for example, restrictions on urban sprawl or strongly enhanced nature protection. The reference scenarios cover a broad range of plausible future developments and therefore provide a suitable framework for analyzing changes in European cultural landscapes. In this deliverable, we focus on the main, reference scenarios. The scenarios are structured along two axes, one ranging from local development to global development, while the second axis indicates the level of government intervention.

Most striking features of the A1 scenario are the increasing areas of natural and urban land. Under the high level of globalization assumed in this scenario, large areas of agricultural land in Europe are abandoned, providing more space for nature development. Particularly throughout central and eastern Europe an increase in the share of total natural area is expected. The increased wealth combined with limited restrictions on urban expansion triggers a strong growth of the urban areas across Europe. This increase is most clear in the already highly urbanised region of central-western Europe.

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B2 scenario

Urban area in Netherlands and Belgium.

The A2 scenario combines a regional focus with a minimum level of intervention. Consequently, most of Europe appears to experience agricultural expansion, to fulfill the demand for agricultural products with European production. However, in eastern Europe agricultural abandonment is also common and space is left for nature expansion. Strong urban expansion is seen in the currently urbanized areas, such as the Netherlands, Belgium, northern France, England and the Ruhr area in Germany.

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B2 scenario

Agricultural expansion northwest of Madrid.

As a consequence of the increasing globalization assumed in the B1 scenario, the demand for agricultural production is fulfilled partly with imports. This results in abandonment of agricultural land throughout Europe. The strong degree of regulation means that nature areas are strictly protected from built development and are key areas for active nature development. This is reflected in the strong nature expansion. Unless the population increase, urban expansion is more concentrated in already urbanized areas. Less urban sprawl is expected.

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B2 scenario

Slovakia - Southeastern Poland border.

The B2 scenario sets restrictions on where urban expansion is allowed, resulting in a limited amount of urban sprawl. The regional focus translates into a large demand for agricultural land in Europe, and the strong land use planning promotes keeping agricultural production in the traditional agricultural landscapes of Europe, such as Spain and France. In most of Europe a decrease of natural area is expected. Only throughout Poland and in a few other scattered areas an increase in natural area is seen.

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B2 scenario

Paris and surroundings.

Land use change trajectories

Land use and land cover changes were summarized into fourteen land change trajectories that represent well-known and significant land change trends in Europe (Sturck et al., 2015).

Land change trajectory Short description
Stability No change in land cover nor land management intensity
Intensification and de-intensification Change in land management intensity
Expansion and decline Land cover conversions
Land abandonment Conversion of agriculture to green space
Recultivation of green space Conversion of green space to agriculture
Recultivation of pasture Conversion of pasture to cropland
Polarization of rural land Parallel land abandonment and intensification in remaining agriculture patches
Urban growth Growth of built-up area which adds to an urban core
Peri-urban growth Growth of built-up area located in the rural-urban fringe
Expansion of wild areas Conversion of agriculture and intensively managed forest to a more natural vegetation cover, adding to contiguous patches of nature
Contraction of wild areas Conversion of wild areas to built-up area, agriculture or high intensity forest

Additional resources

For more information, please take a look at deliverable report: D5.2 EU scale analysis of future cultural landscape dynamics and a paper: Simulating and delineating future land change trajectories across Europe.