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A Geo-Referenced Integrated Environmental Sutability Approach as a Vital Step in Assessing Sustainable Land Use

S. Andronikov and V.V. Dokuchaev

Soil Institute, Russia

G. Hudson, E. Paterson and M.J. Wilson

University of Stirling, UK

Last decade the concept of sustainable development of natural resources has become a major global issue taken up by governmental, non-governmental bodies, industry and academia. A certain progress has been achieved in providing a systematic procedure to evaluate sustainable land management(e.g. Dumanski et al., 1991; Smyth and Dumanski, 1995; Zinck and Farshad, 1995; etc.). However, there is still much concern regarding the most appropriate methodological approach and a set of necessary tools to assess sustainability. To get a precise information about sustainable development of land resources there is a need for a single approach combining bioclimatic, biophysical, socio-economic analysis with economic and environmental risk assessment. 

A research to elaborate such unified geo-referenced and PC-based integrated methodological approach was done at MLURI. Bearing in mind social and economic conditions of the society as a first vital step it is necessary to concentrate on the assessment of the environmental sustainability of various land-use systems. 

A case study, using the Dee catchment (Eastern Scotland) as a demonstration area, was undertaken to investigate the sustainability of natural resources and land use systems in Scotland in the context of land suitability. An integrated computer model (SASCOTS) was created given overall assessment of land suitability for different types of land use. It was based on combination result of separate evaluation models assessing bioclimatic, biophysical constraints and environmental risk. The further step is a creation different scenarios based on social-economic development and Scottish policy options to explore the interrelationship between changing biophysical factors and land use systems, leading to a time series of land suitability in Scotland as well as predictions of the future state of the Scottish land resources. Next, a framework to model, predict and assess environmentally sustainable land management with respect to direct and indirect indicators (Barviroli, 1993; Syers et al., 1995; etc.) would be created with focus to propagation of uncertainty over time. The resultant stage is an application of a quantitative PC-based tool for environmental risk assessment enabling analysis of probability distribution and uncertainty values with respect to scenario results. The effects of alternative scenarios should be checked and visualised by georeferencing using GIS technology. 

To properly manage land resources and to achieve environmental sustainability main methodological principles and approaches should be adopted and applied: 

  1. An integrated biophysical, socio-economic assessment based on ecological landscape analysis and on different scenarios and time-series due to policy options. 
  2. Elaboration quantitative indicators and thresholds that could change the equilibrium of the ecosystems. They are to be divided into: a) temporal b) persistent c) early-warning - signalling duration and stage of changes. Landscape susceptibility, stability and buffer capacity analysis. 
  3. Spatial distribution analysis using geostatistics and disjunctive kriging. 
  4. Quantitative analysis of probability distribution of Scenarios and "What if…." Options. 
  5. Calibration of feedback relations; errors and uncertainties propagation analysis over time. 
  6. Each sustainability assessment should be done separately for one concrete type of land management and for each existing agroecosystem.
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