Finite Land Resources and Competition

This paper is part of Rethinking Global Land Use in an Urban Era, published by MIT Press in their series of Strungmann Forum Reports, which provide state-of-the-art summaries of Ernst Strungmann Forum themes. Rising demand for land-based products (food, feed, fiber, and bioenergy) as well as conservation of forests and carbon sinks create increasing competition for land. Landuse competition has many drivers, takes different forms, and can have many significant implications for ecosystems as well as societal well-being. This chapter discusses several emerging issues, including the effect of increased demand for nonprovisioning ecosystem services ( biodiversity conservation and carbon sequestration), urbanization, bioenergy, and teleconnections. Three major types of land-use competition are discerned: production versus production (e.g., food vs. fuel), production versus conservation (e.g., food production vs. conservation), and built-up environment versus production or conservation (e.g., food vs. urban). Sustainability impacts that result from land-use competition are analyzed and found to differ strongly between the different types of land-use competition. They are associated with important trade-offs and high uncertainty. Institutional aspects related to land-use competition are discussed using a conceptual model that distinguishes types of institutions (government, private, community) as well as their functions (objectives, distribution/ equity, effectiveness/efficiency). Analysis of long-term trajectories suggests that land-use competition is likely to intensify in the medium- to long-term future, mainly in the face of expected scarcities in resource supply (e.g., in terms of limited resources such as fossil fuels), mitigation and adaptation policies related to climate change, as well as climate change impacts and demographic pressures. The chapter concludes with a discussion of major research gaps, and it outlines priority research topics, including the improved analysis of interdependencies of land and energy systems, " land architecture" (i.e., the significance of spatial confi gurations), and multiscale models to assess local-global connections and impacts.


Haberl, Helmut, Cheikh Mbow, Xiangzheng Deng, Elena G. Irwin, Suzi Kerr, Tobias Kuemmerle, Ole Mertz, Patrick Meyfroidt, and B.L. Turner. 2014. “Finite Land Resources and Competition. In Rethinking Global Land Use in an Urban Era, edited by Karen C. Seto and Anette Reenberg, 35-69. Strüngmann Forum Reports 14, edited by J. Lupp. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.