Comparing Path Dependence and Spatial Targeting of Land Use in Implementing Climate Change Responses

Iain Michael Brown, Marie Castellazzi, Diana Feliciano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Land use patterns are the consequence of dynamic processes that often include
important legacy issues. Evaluation of past trends can be used to investigate the role of path dependence in influencing future land use through a reference “business as usual” (BAU) scenario. These issues are explored with regard to objectives for woodland expansion in Scotland as a major pillar of climate change policy. Land use changes based upon recent trends and future transient scenarios to 2050 are used to assess viability of targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions using analysis based on net emission change factors. The BAU scenario is compared with alternative future scenarios incorporating policy
targets and stronger spatial targeting of land use change. Analysis highlights recent trends in new woodland planting on lower quality agricultural land due to socioeconomic and cultural factors. This land is mainly in the wetter uplands and often on carbon-rich soils.Woodland planting following this path dependence can therefore result in net carbon emissions for many years into the future due to soil disturbance during establishment. In contrast, alternative scenarios with more lowland woodland planting have net sequestration potential, with greatest benefits when carbon-rich soils are excluded from afforestation. Spatial targeting can also enhance other co-benefits such as habitat networks and climate
change adaptation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)850-873
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2014


  • land use change; climate change; path dependence; GHG emissions; spatial targeting

Cite this