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Monday 20th May 2024

Future Landscapes: Climate Change Scenarios, Land Capability and Land Use Scenarios

Lead partner: Macaulay Institute

Iain Brown, Marie Castellazi, Willie Towers (WP 3-3), Keith Matthews (WP 3-1), Mike Rivington (WP3-1), Helaina Black (WP3-3)

In this project, we are exploring future drivers and options for landscape change through scenario analysis. We are using the concepts of Land Capability to identify the options for change as this identifies inherent biophysical constraints on how the land can be used, particularly climate, soils and topography. This information is widely used by planners and land managers, providing a sound baseline on which to project future change.

To evaluate the influence of climate change, both at present and into the future, we have developed a methodology to update the Land Capability for Agriculture (LCA) maps originally produced in the 1970-80s by the Macaulay Institute. This method uses observation data from the UK Met Office and future climate scenarios from the UK Climate Impacts Programme, combined with soils and topography data across Scotland. Our results (Brown et al., 2008) show some changes in LCA occurring now and potentially much larger changes occurring in the future. The implications of this work have been discussed with stakeholders in the context of both research and policy development.

Policy initiatives, social attitudes, markets and technology will also have a strong influence on future landscapes (eg. CAP reform, emissions reduction strategies, food security, energy security). We integrate these with the biophysical limitations through a priortisation of the various land-use options identified through land capability. Socio-economic scenarios follow the high-level framework established by Foresight and the IPCC, but we are developing these concepts further by developing landscape-scale scenarios using the LandSFACTS tool.

The final step in the analysis is to develop an integrated assessment of the trade-offs and synergies of each scenario guided by stakeholder feedback. In particular, we aim to explore indirect cross-sectoral issues that may, without resolution, be the source of future conflicts. A key component here is to develop a generic risk-assessment framework that can account for climate change (and other) uncertainty.

This project also forms part of the Cross-Cutting theme on Climate Change.


Brown, I, Towers, W, Rivington M, Black HIJ (2008). Influence of climate change on agricultural land-use potential: adapting and updating the land capability system for Scotland. Climate Research, 37, 43-57.

Brown, I, Towers, W, Rivington M, Black HIJ, Booth P, Barrie D (2008). The Implications of Climate Change on Land Capability for Agriculture. Report to the Scottish Government.

Orr, H, Wilby,R, Hedger M. M., Brown, I (2008) Climate change in the uplands: a UK perspective on safeguarding regulatory ecosystem services. Climate Research, 37, 77-98.


Land capability map

Thumnail of Stakeholder Report

Summer 2008: Stakeholder Report on Climate Change & Land Capability