Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv)


Influence of land tenure on global environmental sustainability

Land tenure – the formal or informal institutions regulating how people can use, control, or transfer land – plays a vital role for gender equity, food security, and various other dimensions of human development. Land tenure also has important but ambiguous implications for the environment, with certain tenure forms commonly associated with either sustainable use of natural resources or undesirable environmental changes such as deforestation, soil degradation, or loss of biodiversity, depending on the study’s context and the causal pathways considered.

Research on the role of land tenure systems in determining social, economic, and environmental sustainability is dominated by geographically restricted, empirical case studies, and disciplinarily fragmented theories. This results in a limited understanding of possible generalities in the direction and strength of land tenure-environment relationships, hampering both scientific and policy applications.

Through this research project, we aim to gain a better empirical understanding of the influence of land tenure on the environment, with a focus on global land-use changes. To this end, we are collating spatially explicit data on land tenure from multiple geographical regions, together covering a broad range of socioeconomic and environmental conditions worldwide. The results will be disseminated via peer-reviewed literature, conference presentations, policy briefs, and online media.

Help us fill the massive data gap on land tenure!

We’re seeking spatially explicit data on land tenure type and associated property rights (e.g. the type of ownership and/or specific rights regulated).

What specific data do we seek?

We seek relevant datasets from cadastral agencies, other governmental or non-governmental institutions, or published research articles. Specifically, we are looking for the following types of data:

  1. Georeferenced point data (e.g. from household surveys)
  2. Parcel-level polygon data or raster data depicting the extents of individual properties, along with corresponding metadata on the tenure types of those boundaries
  3. If the above (1-2) are sensitive information, coarsened data such as buffered points or the merged boundaries of adjoining parcels under the same tenure type.
  4. In cases where no parcel-level data are available, we also seek more aggregated information (e.g., percentages of land covered with different land tenure types).

While we aim to obtain as spatially and thematically detailed data as legally possible, we do not require any sensitive information (e.g., personalized metadata on ownership).  Accordingly, all metadata should be stripped off any sensitive information, but retain the type of tenure (e.g. private, state-owned, community-owned, etc.) as minimum required information. Any additional information related to tenure or tenure security is highly useful for us, but is not a hard requirement.

Current progress and gaps in data acquisition:

Find out about our data management and data-handling ethics

We respect all data-sharing agreements, licences, and applicable restrictions on data use or dissemination. Restricted data will only be handled by the project’s data management team and will be destroyed upon completion of the project if required. In individual cases where data-sharing agreements and licences permit this, data will be made openly available to other researchers and data compilation initiatives.

All compiled data will be treated in accordance with the privacy policy of our partners at Cadasta Foundation, which includes:

  • How we use the data you provide
  • Under what circumstances we would publish information
  • Data storage and security

We actively seek dialogue with data holders about any potential concerns, so do not hesitate to contact us for any further information!

How to get in touch?

Please get in touch if you have questions, wish to suggest data sources, or are interested in collaborating!

Funding institutions and project partners:

Cadasta Foundation
Cadasta Foundation

Global land-use dynamics

We develop spatiotemporal data products on multiple land-use variables, and use these to analyze global dynamics in cropping, grazing and forest management systems over the past decades. We also coordinate the LUCKINet (, an international network of scientists who join forces for the collaborative development, quality-assurance, and management of gridded land-use information.

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