Methods for translating narrative scenarios into quantitative assessments of land use change

Varun Rao Mallampalli, Georgia Mavrommati, Jonathan Thompson, Matthew Duveneck, Spencer Meyer, Arika Ligmann-Zielinska, Caroline Gottschalk Druschke, Kristen Hychka, Melissa A. Kenney, Kasper Kok, Mark E. Borsuk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


In the land use and land cover (LULC) literature, narrative scenarios are qualitative descriptions of plausible futures associated with a combination of socio-economic, policy, technological, and climate changes. LULC models are then often used to translate these narrative descriptions into quantitative characterizations of possible future societal and ecological impacts and conditions. To respect the intent of the underlying scenario descriptions, this process of translation needs to be thoughtful, transparent, and reproducible. This paper evaluates the current state of the art in scenario translation methods and outlines their relative advantages and disadvantages, as well as the respective roles of stakeholders and subject matter experts. We summarize our findings in the form of a decision matrix that can assist land use planners, scientists, and modelers in choosing a translation method appropriate to their situation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-20
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental Modelling and Software
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported in part by the Scenarios Society and Solutions Research Coordination Network (Grant No. NSF-DEB-13-38809 ). We thank Kathy Fallon Lambert and Katie Theoharides for their efforts leading the S 3 RCN and organizing the Scenarios to Simulation workshop in Hanover, NH in February 2015. We appreciate the expertise and involvement of the workshop participants. Additional support was provided by the National Science Foundation through the New Hampshire Experimental Program to Stimulate Cooperative Research (NH EPSCoR) Ecosystems and Society Project (Grant # EPS 1101245 ). We also thank Cameron Wake, Alexandra Thorn, Curt Grim, Barbara Wauchope and Clay Mitchell for providing the scenarios from the Ecosystems and Society Project for use in the workshop.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd.


  • Agent-based model
  • Bayesian network
  • Fuzzy cognitive map
  • Participatory process
  • Socio-ecological scenarios
  • System dynamics


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