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Proposed Analytical Assessment Framework for European Land Systems – EEA

landLand and soil provide vital resources to society such as food, feed, fuel, fibres and shelter. They also provide ecosystem services that support production functions, regulate the risk of natural hazards, and provide cultural and spiritual benefits. By using land, society alters and modifies the quantity and quality of these services, and the intrinsic potential for land benefits to mankind. To better manage its use of land and associated processes, society needs a systems (i.e. integrated) view on land.

The European Environment Agency briefing proposes an analytical framework that aims at developing a strategy for monitoring and integrated assessment of the state of land and its key resources.

Land use policies are essential to successful land management. Some European Union policies frame conditions for land use, e.g. the Common Agricultural Policy. Other policy initiatives will affect land use in the coming years, including the EC no-net-land-take policy by 2050, a new EU regulation for land-based carbon accounting (land use, land use change and forestry), renewable energy goals, the NATURA2000 network, the Water Framework Directive and the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2020 target to maintain and restore ecosystems and their services. At international level, the sustainable development goals (SDG), in particular SDG 15, will also have an impact on land use by, e.g. reducing land degradation to zero.

The question this briefing attempts to answer is how to put into practice an analytical framework to assess the state of land systems, the trade-offs resulting from policy decisions and the impacts of observed changes. The proposed answer lies with a land systems approach, i.e. an integrated assessment method for monitoring and analysing the state of land and its resources. This should address multiple land functions (i.e. the gain or loss of expected services and benefits) and services (i.e. the positive or negative effects of ecosystems on humans) that occur simultaneously. To achieve this, land analysis (with its biophysical and human subsystems) must be multidimensional, covering space, time and the relevant aspects of sustainable functionality.

Key messages

  • A number of land processes are related to environmental issues in Europe such as land take, soil degradation, biodiversity decrease, land abandonment and the decline in ecosystem services.
  • A comprehensive land systems approach is required to tackle the complexity of the problems associated with land processes.
  • Changes to land systems need to address both human and environmental aspects of land use and are better understood through integrating territorial, dynamic and functional assessments.
  • The land systems assessment approach needs clear policy drivers, such as a policy implementation cycle that combines drivers, pressures, state, impacts and responses (DPSIR) in a cause-effect framework.
  • Copernicus land monitoring products are progressively enhancing access to relevant spatio-temporal land use information.

Photo by Tom Fisk:

Verde Environmental Consultancy provide expert advisory, monitoring and assessment services in soil, air, water, waste, energy, noise and ecology disciplines.

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