Land Use

Photo by Daniel Roth on Unsplash

Land Use activities are jointly undertaken by

Group leaders

Alexander Popp (RD3), Jan Philipp Dietrich (RD3)

Mission statement

The land-use group at PIK works as an interdisciplinary team to advance scientific understanding of global land-use dynamics and their sub-systems. Our work combines the biophysical and socio-economic expertise of the associated modeling teams, spanning the full range of the drivers, feedback, and impacts of land-use change. For this, we develop and couple our main global modeling tools MAgPIE and LPJmL, and also use and develop other tools, as appropriate for purpose.  For modeling large-scale, long-term, and complex land-use dynamics and associated systems, we aim at balancing detailed process representation with the requirements on generalizability and comprehensiveness. Our global and regional analyses generate insights that inform policy makers and the general public. We explore the option space of land-use change in the context of climate change, food security, environmental conservation, integrated assessment, and sustainable development. By studying complex and comprehensive sets of future scenarios, we aim to identify potential tradeoffs or co-benefits from changes in policies, land management or behavior. To promote best scientific progress as well as transparency and reproducibility, we collaborate with other scientists and stakeholders and aims to develop tools and data that are freely available to others.

Background and methods

All human activities are embedded and constrained by ecosystem processes and functions. However, in the present time the extent of human use of the biosphere alters these processes and functions on a global scale. Human society appropriates about one quarter of total net primary production of the terrestrial biosphere. Production of food, energy and materials, and the related use of land and water account for crucial components and interactions in the Earth System.

Our research focus is on the competition for land and water under future scenarios of rising food, energy and material demand, climate change and ambitious mitigation policies. World population will grow to about 9 billion people by the year 2050. As economic wealth increases, people consume more food, and the dietary share of animal products increases. Demand for energy, fiber, forest products, and other biomass-based materials will also strongly increase, especially in currently poor regions which are still an early stage of economic development.

Moreover, there is an increasing area demand for settlements and infrastructure, nature conservation and recreation. With limited availability of land at heterogeneous qualities, it is unclear, how this allocation and management puzzle can be solved. Tools The global land and water use model MAgPIE in connection with the dynamic global vegetation and hydrology model LPJmL provides a consistent link between economic development, food and energy demand in different world regions with spatially explicit patterns of production, land use change and water constraints. The macroeconomic and climate policy feedbacks are being provided by the REMIND model in RD3. As an economic optimization model, MAgPIE is being used to derive economic values (rents) of land and water resources used in production.

Selected Publications

Visualization and determination of demand scenarios


Master Thesis and internships:

You are in the beginning of your master program and would like to work on our topics? You want to write your master thesis in the land-use group of PIK?  Please have a look at our potential topic list and contact us!