, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 503-518
Date: 03 Nov 2010

Climate change, drought risk and land capability for agriculture: implications for land use in Scotland


Land capability classification systems define and communicate biophysical limitations on land use, including climate, soils and topography. They can therefore provide an accessible format for both scientists and decision-makers to share knowledge on climate change impacts and adaptation. Underlying such classifications are complex interactions that require dynamic spatial analysis, particularly between soil and climate. These relationships are investigated using a case study on drought risk for agriculture in Scotland, which is currently considered less significant than wetness-related issues. The impact of drought risk is assessed using an established empirical system for land capability linking indicator crops with water availability. This procedure is facilitated by spatial interpolation of climate and soil profile data to provide soil moisture deficits and plant available water on a regular 1-km grid. To evaluate potential impacts of future climate change, land capability classes are estimated using both large-scale ensemble (multi-simulation) data from the HadRM3 regional climate model and local-scale weather generator data (UKCP09) derived from multiple climate models. Results for the case study suggest that drought risk is likely to have a much more significant influence on land use in the future. This could potentially act to restrict the range of crops grown and hence reduce land capability in some areas unless strategic-level adaptation measures are developed that also integrate land use systems and water resources with the wider environment.