Cross-scale Feedbacks in Sustainable Land Management

Guest editors: Ralf Seppelt, Peter Verburg, Albert Norström, Wolfgang Cramer, Tomas Vaclavik 

Meeting the needs of a growing population with continuously changing consumption patterns, while at the same time minimizing the impact onto the environment, is critical for sustainable land management and provisioning of ecosystem services. This is clearly reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that emphasize the need (i) to achieve food security and improved nutrition, (ii) promote sustainable agriculture and economic growth, and (iii) encourage sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems and halt biodiversity loss. However, achieving these critical goals, e.g. by increasing agricultural yields through intensification or cropland expansion, is associated with a range of environmental and social externalities and feedbacks that occur across different spatial scales.

Whilst local place-based research provides essential knowledge on the biophysical and socio-economic boundaries of land use, its findings are contingent upon specific geographical context and rarely account for off-site effects. On the other hand, many land use drivers such as climate change, population growth or consumption patterns are well captured at the global scale, but there are significant uncertainties about how they interact with local conditions. Both regional and global studies on food production also rarely account for a closed interaction between economic and biophysical processes. These uncertainties and incongruences in spatial scales prevent effective integration, synthesis and transferability of findings from research on sustainable land management.

In this issue, research that investigated the link between global change processes and local realities is presented.