Patterns and drivers of recent agricultural land-use change in Southern Germany

M.A. Meyer, A. Früh-Müller

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27 Citations (Scopus)
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Traditionally, agricultural land-use change (LUC) analyses focus on the conversion of natural land to agriculture especially in developing countries. Studies considering recent agricultural LUC (e.g., to built-up land) for the last two decades in more stable agricultural systems in Western Europe are mostly missing for the regional scale. Major LUC pathways, their drivers and potential counteracting factors such as subsidies or an increasing demand for regional agricultural products should be analyzed. Using the Metropolitan Region of Nuremberg in Germany, we quantified (i) major pathways of agricultural LUC with a transition matrix, and (ii) spatial patterns of agricultural LUC with optimized hot-spot analyses. (iii) We used boosted regression trees (BRT) to identify factors which foster agricultural LUC towards settlement and forest as well as semi-natural open land. Results for the last 15 years showed a considerable decline of agricultural land due to afforestation (3.1%) and due to settlement and infrastructure development (2.7%), which were the main LUC pathways. Both settlement development and afforestation concentrated at existing hotspots of urban development and in forest-dominated areas. Settlement-driven agricultural LUC was largely dependent on population density and development and independent from agricultural or biophysical parameters. Forest-driven LUC was mostly explained by agricultural parameters (i.e., low land rents and biophysical factors such as high slopes). Governance instruments such as regional planning and payments for maintaining agriculture on marginal land did not seem to maintain a balanced spatial distribution of agricultural land. If not improved, settlement development will considerably outcompete agriculture in prosperous sub-regions. Economic constraints will force farmers to abandon agriculture for forest on marginal locations at the cost of an intact cultural landscape. © 2020 The Authors
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalLand use policy
Early online date20 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • agricultural land
  • cultural landscape
  • farming system
  • governance approach
  • land use change
  • metropolitan area
  • regional planning
  • spatial distribution
  • Bavaria
  • Germany
  • Nuremberg
  • UT-Hybrid-D


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