, Volume 14, Issue 5, pp 720-731

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Abandonment and Expansion of Arable Land in Europe

  • Erez HatnaAffiliated withDepartment of Geography, Planning and Environment, Institute for Management Research, Radboud University Email author 
  • , Martha M. BakkerAffiliated withLand Dynamics Group, Department of Environmental Science, Wageningen University


Abandonment of arable land is often assumed to happen mostly in marginal areas where the conditions for arable cultivation are relatively unfavorable, whereas arable expansion is expected to occur mostly in areas with favorable conditions. This assumption, used in many land-use change forecasts, was never properly tested, mainly because the relatively short period of full-coverage land-use inventories did not allow a systematic analysis of the phenomena. With the recent release of CORINE 2006 this has changed. In this article, we explore the typical locations of abandonment and expansion of arable land in Europe during the period 1990–2006 by means of logistic regressions. More specifically, we test whether or not locations of abandonment and expansion can be inferred from the location characteristics of arable land in 1990. If the above assumption holds, this should be the case. We demonstrate that although arable expansion indeed happens in locations that resemble the bulk of arable land in 1990 (the presumably favorable locations), arable abandonment does not necessarily happen in locations that resemble the bulk of uncultivated land (that is, the presumably unfavorable locations). In other words, the assumption does not hold. Particularly, areas close to the road network were found to be associated with both high abandonment rates and high expansion rates, which suggest that abandonment is not limited to areas that are marginal in terms of agricultural production.


land-use change Europe agriculture cropland land abandonment