Academic journal article Agricultural and Resource Economics Review

Characterizing Land Use Change in Multidisciplinary Landscape-Level Analyses

Academic journal article Agricultural and Resource Economics Review

Characterizing Land Use Change in Multidisciplinary Landscape-Level Analyses

Article excerpt

Economists increasingly face opportunities to collaborate with ecologists on landscape-level analyses of socioeconomic and ecological processes. This often calls for developing empirical models to project land use change as input into ecological models. Providing ecologists with the land use information they desire can present many challenges regarding data, modeling, and econometrics. This paper provides an overview of the relatively recent adaptation of economics-based land use modeling methods toward greater spatial specificity desired in integrated research with ecologists. Practical issues presented by data, modeling, and econometrics are highlighted, followed by an example based on a multidisciplinary landscape-level analysis in Oregon's Coast Range mountains.

Key Words: ecological economics, forest/urban interface, spatial land use and landscape models

Economists increasingly face opportunities to collaborate with ecologists and other scientists in multi-disciplinary research involving landscape-level analyses of socioeconomic and ecological processes. For economists specializing in land use issues, such collaboration often calls for developing spatial empirical models describing land use change and projecting potential future land use change scenarios for integration with other models describing socioeconomic and ecological processes. Providing ecologists with the specific types of land use information they desire can present challenges regarding the availability of appropriate land use and other data, the need to adapt existing land use modeling methods to particular research issues of interest and data at hand, and unresolved econometric issues associated with spatial autocorrelation.

Recent papers in the economics literature have addressed spatial land use modeling issues and presented example models (see, e.g., Bockstael, 1996; Irwin and Geoghegan, 2001). These papers are invaluable for their focus on developing conceptually rigorous structural models and examining econometric issues associated with spatial autocorrelation. This paper focuses on practical issues involved in providing land use information that is both conceptually rigorous and usable to researchers outside of economics, using spatial data that are often imperfect.

The study begins with a description of the relatively recent adaptation of land use modeling methods of economists toward greater spatial specificity desired in integrated research with ecologists, focusing on data, conceptual modeling, and econometrics issues. This discussion is followed by an example of a spatially explicit land use model developed as part of a multidisciplinary landscape-level analysis of socioeconomic and ecological processes in Oregon's Coast Range. The model characterizes the spatial dynamic distribution of humans on the forest landscape of western Oregon in terms of building densities, which serves as input into other models describing timber production and wildlife habitat.

The Challenges of Integration

Spatial land use models can be viewed as extensions of area-base models first developed by economists over 20 years ago. Area-base models describe proportions (or shares) of land in forest, agriculture, urban, or other discrete use categories, within well-defined geographic areas, usually counties, as functions of socioeconomic and geophysical variables aggregated at the particular geographic unit of analysis. Published examples are numerous (White and Fleming, 1980; Alig, 1986; Alig and Healy, 1987; Alig, White, and Murray, 1988; Lichtenberg, 1989; Plantinga, Buongiorno, and Alig, 1990; Stavins and Jaffe, 1990; Parks and Murray, 1994; Plantinga, 1996; Cropper, Griffiths, and Muthukumara, 1999; Hardie and Parks, 1997; Plantinga, Mauldin, and Alig, 1999; Hardie et al., 2000).

Future land use shares are computed using projected explanatory variable values and provide aggregate regional or national land use projections commonly reported in national resource assessments, such as the Resources Planning Act Assessment (Haynes, 2003). …

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