Land Tenure as a Factor Underlying Agricultural Landscape Changes in Europe: A Review

Open access


Land tenure is generally considered to be an important factor affecting farming, landscape, and rural development. This paper reviews selected case studies to identify how land tenure influences agricultural landscape changes in Europe. We identified how land tenure information was transformed into variables, grouping these variables into general thematic categories: (1) land rights variables based on references to the type of stakeholders and duration of land occupancy, (2) land structure variables describing general land structure, and (3) behavioural variables dependent on stakeholders’ attitudes, perceptions, and personal values. Each thematic category can be defined on three spatial levels: parcel or production block, stakeholder, and landscape. The results show that the tenure factor is not frequently included into landscape-change studies. When a land tenure factor was part of a given study, it either played a minor role among other drivers of landscape change or, if it influenced significant landscape changes, it had only locally specific effects. Moreover, there were studies with contradictory results and so it is difficult to generalize specific findings. Nevertheless, land tenure is frequently discussed within landscape-change research in relation to land abandonment as well as green services and their connection with the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Amblard L Colin JP (2009): Reverse tenancy in Romania: actors’ rationales and equity outcomes. Land Use Policy 26 828–836. doi: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2008.10.008.

  • Antrop M (1998): Landscape change: plan or chaos? Landscape and Urban Planning 41 155–161. doi: 10.1016/S0169-2046(98)00068-1.

  • Assies W (2009): Land tenure land law and development: some thoughts on recent debates. Journal of Peasant Studies 36 573–589. doi: 10.1080/03066150903142824.

  • Bański J (2011): Changes in agricultural land ownership in Poland in the period of the market economy. Agricultural Economics 57 93–101.

  • Bender O Boehmer HJ Jens D Schumacher KP (2005): Using GIS to analyse long-term cultural landscape change in Southern Germany. Landscape and Urban Planning 70 111–125. doi: 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2003.10.008.

  • Bentley JW (1987): Economic and ecological approaches to land fragmentation: in defense of a much-maligned phenomenon. Annual Review of Anthropology 16 31–67.

  • Binns SBO (1950): The consolidation of fragmented agricultural holdings: an FAO study. FAO agricultural studies no. 11. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations FAO Washington.

  • Bürgi M Hersperger AM Schneeberger N (2004): Driving forces of landscape change – current and new directions. Landscape Ecology 19 857–868. doi: 10.1007/s10980-004-0245-8.

  • Demetriou D (2014): The development of an Integrated Planning and Decision Support System (IPDSS) for land consolidation. Springer Theses Springer International Publishing Switzerland. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-02347-2_2.

  • Demetriou D See L Stillwell J (2012): A spatial multi-criteria model for the evaluation of land redistribution plans. ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information 1 272–293. doi: 10.3390/ijgi1030272.

  • Demetriou D Stillwell J See L (2013): A new methodology for measuring land fragmentation. Computers Environment and Urban Systems 39 71–80. doi: 10.1016/j.compenvurbsys.2013.02.001.

  • de Souza FAM (2001): Perceived security of land tenure in Recife Brazil. Habitat International 25 175–190. doi: 10.1016/S0197-3975(00)00023-0.

  • Dramstad WE Sang N (2010): Tenancy in Norwegian agriculture. Land Use Policy 27 946–956. doi: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2009.12.008.

  • European Commission (2015): Agriculture in the European Union and the Member States - Statistical factsheets. Accessed 26 October 2015

  • FAO (2002): Land tenure and rural development. FAO Land Tenure Studies 3 Rome.

  • FAO (2003): The design of land consolidation pilot projects in Central and Eastern Europe. FAO Land Tenure Studies 6 Rome.

  • Feranec J Jaffrain G Soukup T Hazeu G (2010). Determining changes and flows in European landscapes 1990–2000 using CORINE land cover data. Applied Geography 30 19–35. doi: 10.1016/j.apgeog.2009.07.003.

  • Fjellstad WJ Dramstad WE (1999): Patterns of change in two contrasting Norwegian agricultural landscapes. Landscape and Urban Planning 45 177–191. doi: 10.1016/s0169-2046(99)00055-9.

  • Forbord M Bjørkhaug H Burton RJF (2014): Drivers of change in Norwegian agricultural land control and the emergence of rental farming. Journal of Rural Studies 33 9–19. doi: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2013.10.009.

  • Gellrich M Baur P Robinson BH Bebi P (2008): Combining classification tree analyses with interviews to study why sub-alpine grasslands sometimes revert to forest: A case study from the Swiss Alps. Agricultural Systems 96 124–138. doi: 10.1016/j.agsy.2007.07.002.

  • Ghaffar A Robinson GM (1997): Restoring the agricultural landscape: the impact of government policies in East Lothian Scotland. Geoforum 28 205–217. doi: 10.1016/s0016-7185(97)00006-7.

  • Haldrup K Stubkjaer E (2013): Indicator scarcity on cadastre and land registration in cross-country information sources. Land Use Policy 30 652–664. doi: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2012.05.005.

  • Hartvigsen M (2014): Land reform and land fragmentation in Central and Eastern Europe. Land Use Policy 36 330–341. doi: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2013.08.016.

  • Hersperger AM Gennaio MP Verburg PH Burgi M (2010): Linking land change with driving forces and actors: four conceptual models. Ecology and Society 15 17.

  • Hostert P Kuemmerle T Prishchepov A Sieber A Lambin EF Radeloff VC (2011): Rapid land use change after socioeconomic disturbances: the collapse of the Soviet Union versus Chernobyl. Environmental Research Letters 6 1–8. doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/6/4/045201.

  • Jepsen MR et al. (2015): Transitions in European land-management regimes between 1800 and 2010. Land Use Policy 49 53–64. doi: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2015.07.003.

  • Jongman R (2002): Homogenization and fragmentation of the European landscape: ecological consequences and solutions. Landscape and Urban Planning 28 212–221. doi: 10.1016/S0169-2046(01)00222-5.

  • King R Burton S (1982): Land fragmentation: notes on a fundamental rural spatial problem. Progress in Human Geography 6 475–494.

  • King R Burton S (1983): Structural change in agriculture: the geography of land consolidation. Progress in Human Geography 7 471–501.

  • Kristensen SP (1999): Agricultural land use and landscape changes in Rostrup Denmark: processes of intensification and extensification. Landscape and Urban Planning 46 117–123. doi: 10.1016/s0169-2046(99)00034-1.

  • Kristensen SP (2003): Multivariate analysis of landscape changes and farm characteristics in a study area in central Jutland Denmark. Ecological Modelling 168 303–318. doi: 10.1016/s0304-3800(03)00143-1.

  • Kristensen LS Thenail C Kristensen SP (2004): Landscape changes in agrarian landscapes in the 1990s: the interaction between farmers and the farmed landscape. A case study from Jutland Denmark. Journal of Environmental Management 71 231–244. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2004.03.003.

  • Kuemmerle T Radeloff VC Perzanowski K Hostert P (2006): Cross-border comparison of land cover and landscape pattern in Eastern Europe using a hybrid classification technique. Remote Sensing of Environment 103 449–464. doi: 10.1016/j.rse.2006.04.015.

  • Kuemmerle T Hostert P Radeloff VC Van der Linden S Perzanowski K Kruhlov I (2008): Cross-border comparison of post-socialist farmland abandonment in the Carpathians. Ecosystems 11 614–628. doi: 10.1007/s10021-008-9146-z.

  • Kuemmerle T Muller D Griffiths P Rusu M (2009): Land use change in Southern Romania after the collapse of socialism. Regional Environmental Change 9 1–12. doi: 10.1007/s10113-008-0050-z.

  • Lieskovsky J Kanka R Bezak P Stefunkova D Petrovic F Dobrovodska M (2013): Driving forces behind vineyard abandonment in Slovakia following the move to a market-oriented economy. Land Use Policy 32 356–365. doi: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2012.11.010.

  • Madsen LM (2003): New woodlands in Denmark: the role of private landowners. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening 1 185–195. doi: 10.1078/1618-8667-00018.

  • Moreno-Perez OM Ortiz-Miranda D (2008): Understanding structural adjustment in Spanish arable crop farms: policies technology and multifunctionality. Spanish Journal of Agricultural Research 6 153–165.

  • Mottet A Ladet S Coque N Gibon A (2006): Agricultural land-use change and its drivers in mountain landscapes: a case study in the Pyrenees. Agriculture Ecosystems and Environment 114 296–310. doi: 10.1016/j.agee.2005.11.017.

  • Mouysset L (2014): Agricultural public policy: green or sustainable? Ecological Economics 102 15–23. doi: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2014.03.004.

  • Nagaike T Kamitani T (1999): Factors affecting changes in landscape diversity in rural areas of the Fagus crenata forest region of central Japan. Landscape and Urban Planning 43 209–216. doi: 10.1016/S0169-2046(98)00105-4.

  • Orsini S (2013): Landscape polarisation hobby farmers and a valuable hill in Tuscany: understanding landscape dynamics in a peri-urban context. Geografisk Tidsskrift – Danish Journal of Geography 113 53–64. doi: 10.1080/00167223.2013.770633.

  • Parcerisas L Marull J Pino J Tello E Coll F Basnou C (2012): Land use changes landscape ecology and their socioeconomic driving forces in the Spanish Mediterranean coast (El Maresme County 1850–2005). Environmental Science and Policy 23 120–132. doi: 10.1016/j.envsci.2012.08.002.

  • Paulsson J Paasch JM (2015): The Land Administration Domain Model – A literature survey. Land Use Policy 49 546–551. doi: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2015.08.008.

  • Petrzelka P Marquart-Pyatt S (2011): Land tenure in the US: power gender and consequences for conservation decision making. Agriculture and Human Values 28 549–560. doi: 10.1007/s10460-011-9307-0.

  • Petrzelka P Ma Z Malin S (2013): The elephant in the room: absentee landowner issues in conservation and land management. Land Use Policy 30 157–166. doi: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2012.03.015.

  • Pfeifer C Jongeneel RA Sonneveld MPW Stoorvogel JJ (2009): Landscape properties as drivers for farm diversification: a Dutch case study. Land Use Policy 26 1106–1115. doi: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2009.01.007.

  • Plieninger T (2006): Habitat loss fragmentation and alteration – quantifying the impact of land-use changes on a Spanish dehesa landscape by use of aerial photography and GIS. Landscape Ecology 21 91–105. doi: 10.1007/s10980-005-8294-1.

  • Primdahl J (1999): Agricultural landscapes as places of production and for living in owner’s versus producer’s decision making and the implications for planning. Landscape and Urban Planning 46 143–150. doi: 10.1016/s0169-2046(99)00038-9.

  • Primdahl J Kristensen L Busck AG (2013): The farmer and landscape management: different roles different policy approaches. Geography Compass 7 300–314. doi: 10.1111/gec3.12040.

  • Schneeberger N Burgi M Hersperger AM Ewald KC (2007): Driving forces and rates of landscape change as a promising combination for landscape change research – an application on the northern fringe of the Swiss Alps. Land Use Policy 24 349–361. doi: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2006.04.003.

  • Sikor T Müller D Stahl J (2009): Land fragmentation and cropland abandonment in Albania: implications for the roles of state and community in post-socialist land consolidation. World Development 37 1411–1423. doi: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2008.08.013.

  • Simbizi MCD Bennett RM Zevenbergen J (2014): Land tenure security: revisiting and refining the concept for Sub-Saharan Africa’s rural poor. Land Use Policy 36 231–238. doi: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2013.08.006.

  • Simova P Gdulova K (2012): Landscape indices behavior: a review of scale effects. Applied Geography 34 385–394. doi: 10.1016/j.apgeog.2012.01.003.

  • Sklenicka P Salek M (2008): Ownership and soil quality as sources of agricultural land fragmentation in highly fragmented ownership patterns. Landscape Ecology 23 299–311. doi: 10.1007/s10980-007-9185-4.

  • Sklenicka P Molnarova K Brabec E Kumble P Pittnerova B Pixova K Salek M (2009): Remnants of medieval field patterns in the Czech Republic: analysis of driving forces behind their disappearance with special attention to the role of hedgerows. Agriculture Ecosystems and Environment 129 465–473. doi: 10.1016/j.agee.2008.10.026.

  • Sklenicka P Molnarova K Pixova KC Salek ME (2013): Factors affecting farmland prices in the Czech Republic. Land Use Policy 30 130–136. doi: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2012.03.005.

  • Sklenicka P Janovska V Salek M Vlasak J Molnarova K (2014): The Farmland Rental Paradox: extreme land ownership fragmentation as a new form of land degradation. Land Use Policy 38 587–593. doi: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2014.01.006.

  • Sklenicka P Janeckova Molnarova K Salek M Simova P Vlasak J Sekac P Janovska V (2015): Owner or tenant: who adopts better soil conservation practices? Land Use Policy 47 253–261.

  • Sorice MG Kreuter UP Wilcox BP Fox WE 3rd (2014): Changing landowners changing ecosystem? Land-ownership motivations as drivers of land management practices. Journal of Environmental Management 133 144–152. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2013.11.029.

  • Stoate C Báldi A Beja P Boatman ND Herzon I Van Doorn A de Snoo GR Rakosy L Ramwell C (2009): Ecological impacts of early 21st century agricultural change in Europe – a review. Journal of Environmental Management 91 22–46. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2009.07.005.

  • Van Dijk T (2003): Dealing with Central European land fragmenation. A critical assessment on the use of Western European instruments. Eburon Delft.

  • Van Doorn AM Bakker MM (2007): The destination of arable land in a marginal agricultural landscape in South Portugal: an exploration of land use change determinants. Landscape Ecology 22 1073–1087. doi: 10.1007/s10980-007-9093-7.

  • Van Huylenbroeck G Vandermeulen V Mettepenningen E Verspecht A (2007): Multifunctionality of agriculture: a review of definitions evidence and instruments. Living Reviews in Landscape Research 1 3. doi: 10.12942/lrlr-2007-3.

  • Van Vliet J de Groot HLF Rietveld P Verburg PH (2015): Manifestations and underlying drivers of agricultural land use change in Europe. Landscape and Urban Planning 133 24–36. doi: 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2014.09.001.

  • Van Zanten T Verburg PH Koetse MJ Beukering PJH (2014): Preferences for European landscapes: a meta-analysis of case studies. Landscape and Urban Planning 132 89–101. doi: 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2014.08.012.

  • Vogt KA Grove M Asbjornsen H Maxwell KB Vogt DJ Sigurdadottir R Larson BC Schibli L Dove M (2002): Linking ecological and social scales for natural resource management. In: Liu J Taylor WW (eds): Integrating landscape ecology into natural resource management. Cambridge University Press Cambridge.

  • Walford N (2002): Agricultural adjustment: adoption of and adaptation to policy reform measures by large-scale commercial farmers. Land Use Policy 19 243–257. doi: 10.1016/s0264-8377(02)00018-2.

  • Wannasai N Shrestha RP (2008): Role of land tenure security and farm household characteristics on land use change in the Prasae Watershed Thailand. Land Use Policy 25 214–224. doi: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2007.07.003.

  • Wilson GA (1997): Factors influencing farmer participation in the environmentally sensitive areas scheme. Journal of Environmental Management 50 67–93. doi: 10.1006/jema.1996.0095.

Journal information
Impact Factor

CiteScore 2018: 0.6

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.212
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.462

Cited By
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 263 115 3
PDF Downloads 419 334 8