Hierarchical marginal land assessment for land use planning

S. Kang, W. Post, D. Wang, J. Nichols, V. Bandaru, T. West

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Marginal land provides an alternative potential for food and bioenergy production in the face of limited land resources; however, effective assessment of marginal lands is not well addressed. Concerns over environmental risks, ecosystem services and sustainability for marginal land have been widely raised. The objective of this study was to develop a hierarchical marginal land assessment framework for land use planning and management. We first identified major land functions linking production, environment, ecosystem services and economics, and then classified land resources into four categories of marginal land using suitability and limitations associated with major management goals, including physically marginal land, biologically marginal land, environmentally ecologically marginal land, and economically marginal land. We tested this assessment framework in southwestern Michigan, USA. Our results indicated that this marginal land assessment framework can be potentially feasible on land use planning for food and bioenergy production, and balancing multiple goals of land use management. We also compared our results with marginal land assessment from the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and land capability classes (LCC) that are used in the US. The hierarchical assessment framework has advantages of quantitatively reflecting land functions and multiple concerns. This provides a foundation upon which focused studies can be identified in order to improve the assessment framework by quantifying high-resolution land functions associated with environment and ecosystem services as well as their criteria needed to improve the assessment framework.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)106-113
Number of pages8
JournalLand Use Policy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by the Great Lake Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) and the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Oak Ridge National Laboratory is managed by UT-Battelle LLC for the Department of Energy under contract DE-AC05-00OR22725.


  • Hierarchical assessment
  • Land use planning
  • Marginal land


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