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Luxembourg National Research Fund

INTER: Cross-border regions in the grid – an overview of the potential development of urbanisation



How can the development of urbanisation be simulated in border regions? A concept developed jointly by LISER and Université de Bourgogne including tools provides the answer.

At first glance, it is hard to see. But when you go into detail on the digital map, you see that Luxembourg’s cross-border employment area is divided into quadratic squares. Around 1.9 million squares of one hectare each are shown in nine different colours. Each colour stands for a specific land use that is dominant in this area: red, for example, stands for urbanised areas, yellow for agricultural areas and dark green for forest areas.

If you compare the distribution of these quadratic cells over a long period, it becomes clear that land use varies. If someone were to look at the map in 20 years’ time, the distribution of colour cells would be different once again to today’s. This begs the question: can changes in land use be predicted to create a basis for territorial political decisions for example?

Three regions in the spotlight

Olivier Klein has looked at this question. The geography researcher at the LISER department for urban development and mobility, together with Jean-Philippe Antoni from Laboratoire ThéMA at Université de Bourgogne, examined the changes in these cells in more detail. Both scientists wanted to find out how the development of land use – and particularly urban areas – could be modelled in border regions. In addition to looking at Luxembourg and its neighbouring regions, the investigation also looked at the Franco-German border region of Strasbourg-Kehl and the agglomeration of Besançon (reference area without borders).

As Klein explains, all relevant data from 1990 and 2006 was initially collated and then compared. The LISER researcher and his colleague wanted to find out how cells develop and the underlying evolution patterns. For example, in the Strasbourg-Kehl region, which the researchers looked at first, the proportion of urbanised cells in municipal areas increased at the expense of agricultural land.

Cell environment determines the likelihood of change

Based on the data and using the Markov chain, a stochastic process, the two developed a cellular automaton. This was a mathematical model that also takes account of environmental developments when calculating potential cell development and uses this to model dynamic development into the future. In this particular case, the future means land use in 2022 and 2038.

The LUCSim software developed by ThéMa in cooperation with LISER was used. This software enables forecasts on how specific cells develop when for example there is a railway station, a motorway or another border crossing in the vicinity.

“The properties of cells near a target cell determine the likelihood of change,” explains the LISER researcher. “We also take account of other environmental information such as workplace accessibility and housing costs.”

An instrument to assess various development scenarios

But even though the researchers’ work is used to outline probable developments and their locations in the future, Klein believes that due to the many influencing factors, it is difficult to say with certainty that development will actually take place in these areas. However, their work does offer decision-making assistance in assessing various development scenarios or territorial policies.

As Klein explains, work will continue and other methods will be formalised at both LISER and Théma, even after the conclusion of the project, which is funded by the FNR as part of the INTER programme. “We are supervising two doctoral theses in connection with this project,” states the researcher. “We have worked together successfully in the past. This project has helped us to maintain this cooperation and develop it further into the future.”

This success story originates from the FNR 2017 Annual Report – view the Annual Report as PDF or interactive digital version

Olivier Klein