Recent studies assessing agricultural policies, including the EU’s Agri-Environment Scheme, have shown that these have been successful in attaining some environmental goals. In Finland, however, the economic situation of farms has dramatically fallen and hence, the actions do not result in social acceptability. Sustainable intensification is a means to combine the three dimensions of sustainability: environmental, economic and social. Here we introduce a novel land use optimization and planning tool for the sustainable intensification of high-latitude agricultural systems. The main rationale for the development of the tool was to achieve a systematic and comprehensive conception for land allocation across Finland, where field parcels vary substantially in their conditions. The developed tool has a three-step scoring system based on seven physical characteristics (parcel size, shape, slope, distance to the farm center and waterways, soil type and logistic advantages) and the productivity of field parcels. The productivity estimates are based on vegetation indices derived from optical satellite data. The tool allocates virtually all >1 million field parcels in Finland either to sustainable intensification, extensification or afforestation. The tool is dynamic in the sense that its boundary values for land allocation can be fixed according to changes in social targets and supporting policies. Additionally, it can be applied year after year by acknowledging new available data, e.g., on vegetation indices and field parcel rearrangements between farms. Furthermore, it can be applied to all farm types and across Finland. It is a tool for land use planning, implementation and monitoring, but its thorough implementation calls for further development of policy instruments, which are currently more supportive towards land sharing than land sparing activities.
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Land Use Policy is an international and interdisciplinary journal concerned with the social, economic, political, legal, physical and planning aspects of urban and rural land use. It provides a forum for the exchange of ideas and information from the diverse range of disciplines and interest groups which must be combined to formulate effective land use policies.
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