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Land use, biodiversity and climate change

At the interface between ecological economics and agroecology, INRA scientists in Versailles-Grignon and their colleagues have evaluated the impact of land use changes and climate change on the ecology of several common bird species.

Oiseaux au repos.. © INRA, CARRERAS Florence
Updated on 06/25/2015
Published on 04/20/2015

The literature on land use (Lewis et Plantinga, 2007 ; Lewis et al., 2009) has focused on the issue of the links between land use and biodiversity.  Thus certain econometric studies have shown how a land use model could be used to simulate the effects of public policies (grants) designed to preserve biodiversity.  However, these studies did not take account of the effects of climate change (although this is often cited) as well as land use changes, as an important determinant of terrestrial biodiversity.  It is clear that combining the dynamics of these two elements in the medium term (50 years) is crucial for decision-makers. 

 

Modelling and biodiversity scenarios

In the context of the Mobilis project, INRA scientist in Versailles-Grignon and their colleagues were able to propose a modelling framework for the links between land use changes and the habitats of common bird populations.  This work was facilitated by the detailed data available for France with respect to both land use (TERUTI data, 500,000 sites observed throughout the country) and bird populations (STOC data, on the temporal monitoring of common birds).  Three models were estimated and linked together: an econometric model for land use (annual crops, perennial crops, grasslands, forests and urban areas), a Ricardian model explaining the incomes associated with each use, and a statistical model describing the abundance of birds.  The simulations carried out using these three models were able to separate the expected effects of climate change on both land use and bird populations.

 

Climate change as a major determinant

The scientists were thus able to show that:

• climate change is the major determinant of evolutions affecting biodiversity;

• changes to land use may amplify or counteract these effects, depending on the bird species and the region;

• the simulations of an incentive policy on conservation, consisting of grants for grasslands, showed that the effects of this policy were to mitigate - in part - the effects of land use changes on biodiversity but were not sufficient to cancel out the effects of climate change.

With time, in the form of a research project, it will be interesting to enable a convergence of work on the links between different land uses and greenhouse gas emissions and studies on biodiversity, in order to determine the effects of policies on decisions regarding land use and their consequences in terms of both carbon capture and the preservation of biodiversity.  It should be noted that work in the literature on this issue has revealed a real compromise between these two objectives, and that policies which target a single objective are not necessarily better than those of a more general nature.

These efforts, and their results, was one of the highlights of work by the Versailles-Grignon Research Centre during 2014.

Find out more

Ay J., Chakir R., Doyen L., Jiguet F. and Leadley P. 2014. Integrated models, scenarios and dynamics of climate, land use and common birds. Climatic Change126:13-30.