Per-capita estimations of long-term historical land use and the consequences for global change research

31-08-2017 | Publication

Changes in land use and land cover are important in global climate change, but the many uncertainties in historical estimates seriously hamper climate modelling. We collected new data on estimated per capita land use over the last two millennia, using new data sources from the Humanities.

In general, and in agreement with literature, we found that per capita land use indeed has not been constant in the past, but differ per region and over time. Land use in the distant past was mostly less than 1 ha/cap. However, the recently colonised regions show much higher values and have experienced a much higher per capita land use for the recent past. Most known trajectories follow a concave or bell-shaped curve towards the present.