Why and how to include land use change modelling in regional planning? The example of a French Mediterranean Region

Mathilde Hervé ∗±1, Cécile Albert 1, Alberte Bondeau 1 & Thierry Tatoni 1

 1 Institut Méditerranéen de Biodiversité et d’Ecologie marine et continentale (IMBE), Aix Marseille Université, CNRS, IRD, Avignon Université, Aix en Provence, France
± Corresponding author: Mathilde.herve@imbe.fr


Data on land use and land cover are widely used in Regional Planning to designate future protected areas (Vimal et al. 2012). Because of the far-reaching consequences that can potentially derive from this procedure, a robust and reliable designation methodology is required. Using sensitivity analysis, we showed that the human footprint method, developed by Vimal et al. (2012), is very sensitive to agriculture as a stressor (Hervé, Albert & Bondeau 2016). Therefore, it is important to use finer information, regarding the practices and not only the land use for example, and to apply impact coefficients that are adapted to the local context. Moreover, considering future expected land use change in the diagnostic permits to propose more reliable indications for conservation managers. Many maps and mapping methods to evaluate  potential land use and land cover change have been produced over the last years, based on various scenarios (for example Dendoncker, Rounsevell & Bogaert 2007). Therefore, how and when is best to use each of these different maps and mapping methods in Regional Planning remains an unresolved issue. Hereby, we discuss some ways to mobilize global scenarios for Regional Planning in Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur (France). Firstly, we propose a method to test the likelihood of future land use and land cover spatial scenarios for the region regards to past trends of change. Secondly, we selected some of these scenarios to develop a participatory approach. Using workshops with stakeholders at local and regional scales, some scenarios and maps could be designed by stakeholders themselves. Technological scenarios and participative scenarios could be compared to determine, based on coefficients derived from a literature review covering all the Mediterranean region, future likely challenges for biodiversity conservation in this region.

Materials and Methods

Review of most used scenarios

We searched the scientific literature using the Web of knowledge and the key words “Scenarios OR Land use change OR biodiversity”. We selected the 200 most cited papers which cover a range of scenarios on land use, and excluded 95 papers that focus on other types of change (climate, hydrology, fire…).

Workshop with local stakeholders

We selected 3 sites for our local workshops. To do this we overlaid maps of regional connectivity and of potential land use change. We also plan to hold a regional workshop with planners form the GASBI group (Groupe d’échanges entre Aménageurs et Scientifiques autour de la Biodiversité et des Infrastructures).

Results and Discussion

 Review of most used scenarios  

In order to consider plausible futures, we compared trends linked to some of the scenarios most cited in the literature. In addition we focused on four land cover types: agriculture, pastures, forest and urban, and on three scales: European, Mediterranean and Regional (Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur). For agriculture, we can expect a decrease at Mediterranean scale under a majority of the scenarios considered (Figure 1).


Figure 1

Figure 1.  Range of possible evolution for Agricultural land use in the Mediterranean Basin under 13 scenarios (click to enlarge the image)

Globally, the expected area for forest is a mirror of agricultural area evolution, excepted for Mediterranean level with a complex pattern. Grassland and urbanization show an increase, regardless the scale.

 Workshop with stakeholders

This part is still in progress!


From these two approaches, the objectives was to produce maps of potential land use change and identify “hotspots of change” in the PACA region. These hotspots present the potential be more thoroughly explored in relation to conservation, regional planning and especially ecological connectivity.



This work is a contribution to the Labex OT-Med (no ANR-11-LABX-0061) funded by the French Government “Investissements d’Avenir” program of the French National Research Agency (ANR) through the A*MIDEX project (no ANR-11-IDEX-0001-02). We are also grateful to the stakeholders that were involved in the local workshop.


Dendoncker, N., Rounsevell, M. & Bogaert, P. (2007) Spatial analysis and modelling of land use distributions in Belgium. Computers, Environment and Urban Systems, 31, 188–205.

Hervé, M., Albert, C.H. & Bondeau, A. (2016) On the importance of taking into account agricultural practices when defining conservation priorities for regional planning. Journal for Nature Conservation, 33, 76–84.

Vimal, R., Pluvinet, P., Sacca, C., Mazagol, P.O., Etlicher, B. & Thompson, J.D. (2012) Exploring spatial patterns of vulnerability for diverse biodiversity descriptors in regional conservation planning. Journal of Environmental Management, 95, 9–16.