Land use science has traditionally used case-study approaches for in-depth investigation of land use change processes and impacts. Meta-studies synthesize findings across case-study evidence to identify general patterns. In this paper, we provide a review of meta-studies in land use science. Various meta-studies have been conducted, which synthesize deforestation and agricultural land use change processes, while other important changes, such as urbanization, wetland conversion, and grassland dynamics have hardly been addressed. Meta-studies of land use change impacts focus mostly on biodiversity and biogeochemical cycles, while meta-studies of socioeconomic consequences are rare. Land use change processes and land use change impacts are generally addressed in isolation, while only few studies considered trajectories of drivers through changes to their impacts and their potential feedbacks. We provide a conceptual framework for linking meta-studies of land use change processes and impacts for the analysis of coupled human-environmental systems. Moreover, we provide suggestions for combining meta-studies of different land use change processes to develop a more integrated theory of land use change, and for combining meta-studies of land use change impacts to identify tradeoffs between different impacts. Land use science can benefit from an improved conceptualization of land use change processes and their impacts, and from new methods that combine meta-study findings to advance our understanding of human-environmental systems.
Meta-studies in land use science: Current coverage and prospects