Modeling land use and land cover change: using a hindcast to estimate economic parameters in gcamland v2.0

Katherine V. Calvin, Abigail Snyder, Xin Zhao, and Marshall Wise

Department of Energy, Office of Science, Earth & Environmental Systems Modeling Program Acknowledged Support: Yes, MultiSector Dynamics Program


Future changes in land use and cover have important implications for agriculture, energy, water use, and climate. Estimates of future land use and land cover differ significantly across economic models as a result of differences in drivers, model structure, and model parameters; however, these models often rely on heuristics to determine model parameters. In this study, we demonstrate a more systematic and empirically based approach to estimating a few key parameters for an economic model of land use and land cover change, gcamland. Specifically, we generate a large set of model parameter perturbations for the selected parameters and run gcamland simulations with these parameter sets over the historical period in the United States to quantify land use and land cover, determine how well the model reproduces observations, and identify parameter combinations that best replicate observations, assuming other model parameters are fixed. We also test alternate methods for forming expectations about uncertain crop yields and prices, including adaptive, perfect, linear, and hybrid approaches. In particular, we estimate parameters for six parameters used in the formation of expectations and three of seven logit exponents for the USA only. We find that an adaptive expectation approach minimizes the error between simulated outputs and observations, with parameters that suggest that for most crops, landowners put a significant weight on previous information. Interestingly, for corn, where ethanol policies have led to a rapid growth in demand, the resulting parameters show that a larger weight is placed on more recent information. We examine the change in model parameters as the metric of model error changes, finding that the measure of model fitness affects the choice of parameter sets. Finally, we discuss how the methodology and results used in this study could be used for other regions or economic models to improve projections of future land use and land cover change.

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