The vulnerability of ecosystem services to land use change
Terrestrial ecosystems provide a number of vital services for people and society, such as biodiversity, food, fibre, water resources, carbon sequestration, and recreation. The future capability of ecosystems to provide these services is determined by changes in socio-economic characteristics, land use, biodiversity, atmospheric composition and climate. Most published impact assessments do not address the vulnerability of the human–environment system under such environmental change. They cannot answer important multidisciplinary policy relevant questions such as: which are the main regions or sectors that are vulnerable to global change? How do the vulnerabilities of two regions compare? Which scenario is the least, or most, harmful for a given region or sector? The ATEAM project (Advanced Terrestrial Ecosystem Analysis and Modelling) uses a new approach to ecosystem assessment by integrating the potential impacts in a vulnerability assessment, which can help answer multidisciplinary questions, such as those listed above. This paper presents the vulnerability assessment of the ATEAM land use scenarios. The 14 land use types, discussed in detail by Rounsevell et al. (this volume), can be related to a range of ecosystem services. For instance, forest area is associated with wood production and designated land with outdoor recreation. Directly applying the vulnerability methodology to the land use change scenarios helps in understanding land use change impacts across the European environment. Scatter plots summarising impacts per principal European Environmental Zone (EnZ) help in interpreting how the impacts of the scenarios differ between ecosystem services and the European environments. While there is considerable heterogeneity in both the potential impacts of global changes, and the adaptive capacity to cope with these impacts, this assessment shows that southern Europe in particular will be vulnerable to land use change. Projected economic growth increases adaptive capacity, but is also associated with the most negative potential impacts. The potential impacts of more environmentally oriented developments are smaller, indicating an important role for both policy and society in determining eventual residual impacts.