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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Hunting as land use: Understanding the spatial associations among hunting, agriculture, and forestry

Neumann, Wiebke; Levers, Christian; Widemo, Fredrik; Singh, Navinder; Cromsigt, Joris


Hunting is a widespread but often overlooked land-use activity, providing major benefits to society. Hunting takes place in most landscapes, yet it remains unclear which types of landscapes foster or dampen hunting-related services, and how hunting relates to other land uses. A better understanding of these relationships is key for sustainable land-use planning that integrates wildlife management. This is particularly urgent for Europe, where wildlife populations are increasing. Focusing on Sweden, we explored the spatial associations among hunting, agriculture, and forestry to identify archetypical combinations of these land uses. Specifically, we combined indicators on the extent and intensity of agriculture and forestry, with data on hunting bags for 63 game species using self-organizing maps, a non-parametric clustering approach. We identified 15 typical bundles of co-occurring land uses at the municipality level across Sweden. The harvest of forest grouse, bears, and moose co-occurred with forestry in northern Sweden, whereas the harvest of small game, different deer species, and wild boar co-occurred with agriculture across southern Sweden, reflecting species’ biology, environmental factors, and management. Our findings also highlight the strength of associations among hunting and other land uses. Importantly, we identified large areas in central Sweden where harvest of game was below average, possibly indicating that intensity of hunting is out of balance with that of agriculture or forestry, potentially fostering conflict between wildlife and land use. Collectively, our results suggest that (1) hunting should be considered a major land use that, in Sweden, is more widespread than agriculture and forestry; (2) land-use planning must therefore integrate wildlife management; and (3) such an integration should occur in a regionalized manner that considers social-ecological context. Our approach identifies a first spatial template within which such context-specific land-use planning, aiming at aligning wildlife and diverse land uses, can take place.


functional game groups; human-nature interactions; human-wildlife co-existence; land-use archetypes; Northern Europe; social-ecological systems; spatial clustering; ungulate overabundance; wildlife management

Published in

Ecology and Society
2022, Volume: 27, number: 1, article number: 2