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Forestry Sciences Laboratory
3041 Cornwallis Road
RTP, NC 27709
(919) 549-4011

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Land Use Changes


How will land use change in response to alternative futures regarding social and environmental conditions in the South?


  • Forecast land area in agricultural, developed, forest, and other land uses.
  • Evaluate alternative patterns of urbanization.
  • Define changes in the extent of the wildland urban interface.
  • Forecast changes in these variables in response to alternative multiple attribute scenarios (anticipated futures)

Subregional Issues

  • Changes in land use, and in particular urbanization (Piedmont)
  • Effects of agricultural commodity prices on land use (MAV)


David N. Wear, Southern Research Station, USDA Forest Service

Methods of Analysis

We will use two econometric models of land use at the county level to evaluate future land uses in the region. These models, one developed by Plantinga and Alig (2000x) and the other by Hardie and others (200x , see also Wear 2002) provide projections of future land use based on several driving variables such as population growth, personal income, farm income, farm costs, biophysical productivity measures, and timber prices. Patterns of urbanization are largely shaped by population forecasts. Land use projections are made for aggregate use classes: developed, crops, pasture, forest and all other. Forecasts are generated by altering the path of these various input variables, for example, the change in population density over time.

Data and Information Sources

Comprehensive land use observations are based on detailed NRI inventories for the years 1982, 1987, 1992, and 1997. Additional state-level data are available for calibrating models for the year 2002. Agricultural data (including crop revenues and costs) are taken from the Census of Agriculture and population and other demographic data are taken from Census of Population. Forecasts of demographic variables are based on Woods and Poole (2008) as modified for the 2010 RPA Assessment.


For each scenario, the model will be run to produce forecasts of all land classes for every county in the South on a decadal time step. These data will be summarized using tables and maps of land use change.

Potential cooperators

Analysis will be coordinated with RPA 2010 Assessment projections and models through Ralph Alig, USFS Pacific Northwest Station..

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Last Modified: 04/03/2009