Land-use distributions form in response to market interventions such as land-use planning, zoning, and government-subsidized infrastructure. Land-use models allow planners to consider future conditions of an urban system under current and alternative policy scenarios. This is particularly useful for simulating changes due to large infrastructure investments and for estimating ecological impacts from land-use patterns.
Desirable characteristics of land-use models include transparency, portability, extensibility, and the ability to assess relevant policy issues that can inform the land-use planning process. While model development and dispersal is increasingly commonplace, several factors should be evaluated prior to model implementation. Of particular concern is the availability of data at appropriate scales, time frames, and resolutions to support model requirements and the difficulties associated with manipulating the model specification to adapt to data limitations or alternative research or policy questions.
Finally, as advances in computer technology, data availability, and human understanding of natural systems have enabled the development of increasingly sophisticated land-use models, it is critical that models not be made into black boxes. Rather, modelers must work harder than ever to make their models transparent and intelligible to the stakeholders who will be using them. This will require not only rigorous documentation of model processes, data sources, and assumptions, but also concerted efforts to communicate this information to a wide audience.
See also: Cellular Automata; Emergent Properties; Individual-Based Models; Landscape Modeling; Landscape Planning; Socioecological Systems; Spatial Models and Geographic Information Systems; Urban Systems; Watershed Management.
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