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Land Use Change & Management: A global perspective - ENV00040H

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  • Department: Environment and Geography
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Robert Marchant
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25

Module summary

Two of the most important land cover types that shape the global landscape are agriculture and forests. The development of these two cover types, especially over the past millennia, have resulted in the global landscapes that we have today. Understanding land use change and land use management has become an increasingly complex field: no longer is there a single focus on timber or food production, instead the modern farmer and forest manager has to balance conservation, development, economics and other aspects of environmental management within a rapid changing series of policy drivers. Culture and attitudes also have an important role to play in decision-making, and there are many different institutions, organisations and stakeholders whose regulations or opinions need to be taken into account. As more value, in quite different areas, is attributed to the agricultural and forestry resource modern land use managers have to be aware of a range of issues to make informed choices on which to base production and management options. These issues can be conflicting and wide ranging – from watershed management to biodiversity valuing, from amenity value to carbon storage, from crop, grassland and timber production to ecological benefit of species choice. The module lectures cover topics that deal with this breath of information and issues attached to agricultural and forest policy and associated values. Through the course students will engage in a wide range of issues to understand how land use has changed through history, what the drivers are to this management and how it might change into the future.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

The module will provide technical, scientific and policy understanding of the agriculture and forestry sectors, how these interact and respond to changing policy, such as through the climate change and sustainable development agenda. Such understanding will be key employment sector for environmental graduates for the foreseeable future.

The module provides understanding and hands-on experience of some key concepts, theories and practices of land use management used in a wide range of sectors including:

  • Agricultural management

  • Forest management

  • Land use planning

  • Policy

  • Sustainable Development

  • Futures thinking

Two field visits, one to a working farm and one to a forest, widen the experience of both agricultural and forestry sectors and provide practical hand-on experience on the relativity of choicers facing land use managers.

The practical component of the course is based on problem-solving within groups, helping to develop a range of generic skills:

  • Group participation and management

  • Problem analysis and task prioritisation

  • Time management

  • People skills

  • Debate and discussion

  • Priority setting

Module learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate a detailed understanding of the key issues faced by today's land use managers, in particular the balance between environmental sustainability, economic production and provision of socially valuable goods and services.

  • Demonstrate an understanding of time and space horizons in agriculture and forestry.

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the fundamentals of autotrophic production (e.g. processes and associated environmental limits) and how these form the basis of the varied agricultural and forest systems in evidence today.

  • Demonstrate a detailed and contextual understanding of the issues related to modern day agricultural and forest land use with reference to the future sustainability across the globe.

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the driving forces for agriculture and forestry (both social, political and economic) and how these can realise different land use management systems and impacts on the environment and society.

  • Develop the ability to individually prepare a land use management plan that takes into account the costs, benefits, opportunities and constraints of a set of management actions. This can focus either on agriculture or forestry and can be based in a developed or developing country context.


Task Length % of module mark
Online Exam - 24 hrs (Centrally scheduled)
Land Use Change & Management Open Exam
8 hours 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Module feedback

Written feedback will be provided on assessment in accordance with the University’s Policy on Assessment Feedback Turnaround Time

Indicative reading

  • Adler, C., P.Wester, I. Bhatt, C. Huggel, G.E. Insarov, M.D. Morecroft, V. Muccione, and A. Prakash, 2022: Cross-Chapter Paper 5: Mountains. In: Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [H.-O. Pörtner, D.C. Roberts, M. Tignor, E.S. Poloczanska, K. Mintenbeck, A. Alegría, M. Craig, S. Langsdorf, S. Löschke, V. Möller, A. Okem, B. Rama (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York, NY, USA, pp. 2273–2318, doi:10.1017/9781009325844.022.

    Cuni-Sanchez, A., Sullivan, M.J., Platts, P.J., Lewis, S.L., Marchant, R., Imani, G., Hubau, W., Abiem, I., Adhikari, H., Albrecht, T. and Altman, J., 2021. High aboveground carbon stock of African tropical montane forests. Nature, 596(7873), pp.536-542.

    Smedshaug, C.A. (2010) Feeding the World in the 21st Century: A historical analysis of agriculture and society. Anthem press, UK.

    FAO (2015) The state of food insecurity in the World in 2015. FAO.

    Lang, T., Barling, D. and Caraher, M. (2009) Food Policy: Integrating health, environment and society. Oxford University Press.

    Marchant, R.A. and Cuni-Sanchez, A., 2022. Special Issue Editorial: Mountains under Pressure. Land, 11(8), p.1283.

    Rackham, O. 1993. Trees and woodland in the British landscape. Dent.

    The World Food Economy. (2011) 2nd edition. John Wiley & Sons

    Thorn, J.P., Klein, J.A., Steger, C., Hopping, K.A., Capitani, C., Tucker, C.M., Reid, R.S. and Marchant, R.A., 2021. Scenario archetypes reveal risks and opportunities for global mountain futures. Global Environmental Change, 69, p.102291.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.