Welcome to the Copernicus Land Change Lab. We study the changes in land use and land cover and the consequences for climate, food, and biodiversity in the past, present and future.
With an ever-growing world population, counting 7.7 billion people in 2019, the pressure on land increases rapidly. Land is used for e.g. agriculture and forestry to provide food, feed, fibre and timber; for urban areas to house people and industry; for infrastructure, for recreation and for conservation. In (recent) history, land use and land cover has changed dramatically: e.g. agricultural land has expanded, urban areas have grown, and deforestation has increased. Given the increasing pressure on land, these land use and land cover changes are expected to continue in the coming decades, thereby contributing to global environmental change. For example, large scale land use and land cover change impacts the carbon and hydrological cycle thereby influencing climate change which in turn has large impacts on the socio-ecological system.
But there are also other significant environmental and socio-economic effects of land change such as erosion, degradation, biodiversity loss, impacts on water availability and quality, local food security and migration, which contribute to global change. Therefore, land change (land use and land cover change) play a key role in sustainable development. i.e. many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the UN are directly or indirectly related to land change (directly e.g.: Zero Hunger, Climate Action, Life on Land; and indirectly: almost all of them), which are at the core of research and teaching within Copernicus.