Modelling of large-scale land-use systems


LandSHIFT (LandSimulation to Harmonize and Integrate Freshwater Availability and the Terrestrial Environment) is a land use change model for global and regional scale simulation experiments. It comprises a spatial multi-scale hierarchy. The macro-level is defined by spatial entities such as countries, districts or socio-economic units. In contrast, the micro-level is characterized by a uniform spatial raster. The size of the raster cells varies between 5 arcminutes for continental and global level applications and 1 km² for regional studies. The principal objective is to simulate the interactions of socio-economic drivers and the biophysical environment determining land use and land use changes and to assess the impacts of these changes on human society and the environment. The model design aims at delivering a tool that can play a central role in scenario analysis projects. Particular research questions include:

  • The analysis of the impacts of an increasing human demand for on the spatial extent and the intensity of crop cultivation and pasture management und climate change conditions.
  • Simulation of competition between different types of land use with a special focus on the competition between food and enegy crops
  • Evaluation of the possible contribution of irrigation for the production of food and energy crops with respect to water availability and competition to other water use sectors.
  • Consequences of land-use change on the water balance as well as on biogeochemical cycles.


Research regarding further model development and concentrates on the following topics:

  • Methods of suitabiliy assessmnet and spatial resource allocation,
  • Development of a new sub-module for crop irrigation,
  • Development of a new sub-module for the simulation of the global forest sector,
  • Coupling of LandSHIFT to the global hydrology model WaterGAP and the agro-economic equilibrium model IMPACT.

The current focus of model application is as a tool in context of scenario analysis. Reference projects and actual research activities include

  • Development of land-use scenarios and their implications of the continental water balance on the African continent, UNEP Global Environmental Outlook 4(Schaldach et al., 2006; Weiß et al., 2009).
  • Simulation of land-use scenarios (with focus on grazing management) and their environmental consequences in the Middle East, GLOWA Jordan River Projekt (Koch et al., 2008; Koch et al., 2009; Menzel et al., 2009).
  • Impacts of the cultivation of energy crops on spatial land-use patterns in India (Schaldach et al., in press).
  • Analyse of land-use change dynamics and their consequences on biological carbon sequestration in in Brasil (Lapola et al., 2008; Lapola et al., 2010).
  • Modelling the link between land-use and water availability in Europe, EU SCENES Project (Schaldach et al., 2009).
  • Application of spatial land-use models in context of an integrated model system for the simulation of biogas production in Germany (Schaldach A. et al., 2010).


Ongoing work in context of research projects and several ph.D. theses aims at further conceptual refinement of the model as well as on the devlopment of advanced simulation experiments to tackle relevant research questions as part of scenario analysis.

Funding agency

CESR research project, BMBF (GLOWA Jordan River), FNR (Biosys Projekt)

Project duration

January 2004 − December 2011

Project management

Joseph Alcamo
Rüdiger Schaldach

Project staff

Shalini Gupta
Jennifer Koch
Christina Kölking
David M. Lapola
Janina Onigkeit
Jan Schüngel
Benjamin Stuch
Florian Wimmer


Potsdam-Institut für Klimafolgenforschung
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Washington