Visualizing Relationships between Drivers of Environmental Change and Pressures on Land-Based Ecosystems


The pursuit of human needs and demands is placing more pressure on land resources than ever before. The challenge of feeding 7 billion people is increasingly competing with rising demands for materials and biofuels. Deforestation and land degradation are among the pressing outcomes of these trends. Drivers of environmental changeincluding population growth, economic activity, consumption, urbanization, trade, conflict, and governance—clearly play a role in aggravating or mitigating these pressures on land. Despite advances in understanding causality in complex systems, navigating the interactions between these drivers remains a major challenge. This paper analyzes and visualizes the relationships between multiple, interacting drivers of environmental change and specific pressures on land-based ecosystems. Drawing on experience from the development of the Drivers and Land chapters of the UN Environment Programme’s Fifth Global Environment Outlook report (GEO-5), we use a series of Kiviat diagrams to illustrate the relative influence of key drivers on selected pressures on land. When individual diagrams are overlaid, patterns of influence emerge that can provide insight into where policy responses might best be targeted. We propose that, subject to some limitations, the Kiviat exercise can provide an accessible and potentially valuable knowledge-intermediary tool to help link science-based information to policy action.

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Jabbour, J. and Hunsberger, C. (2014) Visualizing Relationships between Drivers of Environmental Change and Pressures on Land-Based Ecosystems. Natural Resources, 5, 146-160. doi: 10.4236/nr.2014.54015.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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