The causes of land-use and land-cover change: Moving beyond the myths

Eric F. Lambin, B. L. Turner, Helmut J. Geist, Samuel B. Agbola, Arild Angelsen, John W. Bruce, Oliver T. Coomes, Rodolfo Dirzo, Günther Fischer, Carl Folke, P. S. George, Katherine Homewood, Jacques Imbernon, Rik Leemans, Xiubin Li, Emilio F. Moran, Michael Mortimore, P. S. Ramakrishnan, John F. Richards, Helle SkånesWill Steffen, Glenn D. Stone, Uno Svedin, Tom A. Veldkamp, Coleen Vogel, Jianchu Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

2530 Scopus citations


Common understanding of the causes of land-use and land-cover change is dominated by simplifications which, in turn, underlie many environment-development policies. This article tracks some of the major myths on driving forces of land-cover change and proposes alternative pathways of change that are better supported by case study evidence. Cases reviewed support the conclusion that neither population nor poverty alone constitute the sole and major underlying causes of land-cover change worldwide. Rather, peoples' responses to economic opportunities, as mediated by institutional factors, drive land-cover changes. Opportunities and constraints for new land uses are created by local as well as national markets and policies. Global forces become the main determinants of land-use change, as they amplify or attenuate local factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)261-269
Number of pages9
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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