German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)

Causes of Land-Use and Biodiversity Change

Human land-use drives changes in species habitats and populations, and in turn responds to changes in economic activity, governance systems, and other societal drivers. In this research field, we study these direct and indirect causal relationships using continental to global spatiotemporal datasets and various statistical modelling tools.

Current projects contributing to this research field:

Anthropogenic environmental drivers of biodiversity change

The ultimate consequences of anthropogenic environmental changes on ecological communities (e.g., land-use change, habitat loss and fragmentation, climate change) will depend both on the species-specific responses to the environment and on species responses to one another.  Response strength, in turn, is believed to be largely dependent on the scale at which the environmental drivers are experienced by each species. To assess the generality of these scale-dependent responses to the environment around the world, this project is leveraging new and established species abundance data to jointly model species responses to anthropogenic environmental changes as a function of physiology, phylogeny, and phylogeography.

Project lead: Dr Chase Nuñez

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.

Project lead: Andrea Pacheco

Work in progress

The generality of effects of land tenure form on land-use changes across spatial and temporal scales (in preparation).

Driven by theoretical insights from various fields (e.g., Development Economics, New Institutional Economics, Conservation Science), we are systematically testing hypotheses on how certain tenure forms cause changes in land-use and land-cover. We are especially interested in the generality of the hypothesized effects across spatial and temporal scales.

We use quasi-experimental econometric approaches to more robustly test for the causality of effects of different tenure forms (private, public, protected, indigenous, etc.) on deforestation in Brazil.

Preliminary results from Brazil point to positive or negative effects of certain land tenure forms on forest-to-agriculture conversion rates over the past 30 years that are highly consistent across scales, while others show inconsistent effects across scales.

Help us fill the massive data gap on land tenure!

We are 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:

  • Georeferenced point data (e.g. from household surveys)
  • Parcel-level polygon data or raster data depicting the extents of individual properties, along with corresponding metadata on the tenure types of those boundaries 
  • If the above (1-2) are sensitive information, we can alternatively use coarsened data such as buffered points or the merged boundaries of adjoining parcels under the same tenure type.
  • 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, 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!

I know a land tenure dataset – How do I get in touch?

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

Principal Investigator: Dr Carsten Meyer
PhD student: Andrea Pacheco

Distant impacts of urbanization on biodiversity

Project lead: Vincent von Dosky

Coming soon.

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