Spatial Indicators to Monitor Land Consumption for local Governance in Southern Germany

Environ Manage. 2021 Mar 22;1-17. doi: 10.1007/s00267-021-01460-3. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Land consumption for settlement and infrastructure development has been extensively discussed and analyzed in the last two decades. In Germany, existing governance at the state level seems to hardly foster effective land management at the municipal level to achieve overarching goals at the level of the European Union such as "no net land take". Germany aims to limit land consumption to less than 30 ha per day by 2030. This goal is hardly translated to the municipal level where actual land-use decisions are taken due to the municipal planning sovereignty. In order to address these deficiencies, this study characterizes land consumption in the Nuremberg Metropolitan Region with self-organizing maps and identifies major factors explaining cluster differences using boosted regression trees. We identified four major clusters: booming, prosperous, moderate, and transition regions. Generally, beneficial demographics (population growth and lower old-age dependency ratio) and financial power of municipalities come at the expense of considerable settlement and traffic infrastructure development (i.e., increased land consumption), creating the impression of a rather unregulated market despite the existing planning framework in Germany. Based on these clusters, we developed an indicator set through a participatory process to improve land-use planning following three dimensions: efficient land use, preservation of cultural landscapes and its services, and fostering the regional added value of agricultural products beyond the current local political focus. Future research should assess whether municipalities with better information will reduce land consumption due to increased awareness.

Keywords: Governance; Indicators; Land consumption; Land management; Land take; Spatial planning.