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A Random Forest-Cellular Automata modelling approach to explore future land use/cover change in Attica (Greece), under different socio-economic realities and scales

Gounaridis, Dimitrios, Chorianopoulos, Ioannis, Symeonakis, Elias, Koukoulas, Sotirios
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.646 pp. 320-335
cropland, economic crises, economic performance, land use planning, landscapes, models, socioeconomics, urbanization, Greece
This paper explores potential future land use/cover (LUC) dynamics in the Attica region, Greece, under three distinct economic performance scenarios. During the last decades, Attica underwent a significant and predominantly unregulated process of urban growth, due to a substantial increase in housing demand coupled with limited land use planning controls. However, the recent financial crisis affected urban growth trends considerably. This paper uses the observed LUC trends between 1991 and 2016 to sketch three divergent future scenarios of economic development. The observed LUC trends are then analysed using 27 dynamic, biophysical, socio-economic, terrain and proximity-based factors, to generate transition potential maps, implementing a Random Forests (RF) regression modelling approach. Scenarios are projected to 2040 by implementing a spatially explicit Cellular Automata (CA) model. The resulting maps are subjected to a multiple resolution sensitivity analysis to assess the effect of spatial resolution of the input data to the model outputs. Findings show that, under the current setting of an underdeveloped land use planning apparatus, a long-term scenario of high economic growth will increase built-up surfaces in the region by almost 24%, accompanied by a notable decrease in natural areas and cropland. Interestingly, in the case that the currently negative economic growth rates persist, artificial surfaces in the region are still expected to increase by approximately 7.5% by 2040.