Land Use Conflict Identification Based on Land Use Multi-Objective Suitability Evaluation in Mashhad Region

Document Type : Research article


1 Department of Regional Sustainable Urban, Academic Center for Education, Culture and Research, Mashhad, Iran

2 Department of Urban planning, College of Fine Arts, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran



Land conflicts are possible when the multiple needs of several land-uses overlap in space and cannot be coordinated. Within the Mashhad urban complex's boundaries, urbanization has taken up quality environmental spaces and resulted in the fragmentation and degradation of agricultural and environmental resources. The optimal use of land resources and sustainability depends on locating and resolving land use conflicts. This study looked into land-use conflicts from the perspective of land-use suitability. For this purpose, using the multi-criteria evaluation analysis, using natural, spatial, planning, and water resources indicators, land suitability for three agricultural, ecological, and residential uses was evaluated in three categories high, medium, and medium and low. Moreover, based on the combination of the suitability of three land-uses using the proposed model, the intensity of conflicts in three classes and the type of conflicts in twelve classes have been detected. In the following, the possibility of land changes is stated according to the type and intensity of each conflict. The results show that the percentage of land area with high ecological suitability has been lower compared to the other two land-uses. Also, the suitability of ecological land from the center of the area to the periphery increases with the increase in height. Land suitability for residential use decreases as it moves away from cities and roads. The largest percentage of land in Mashhad urban complex is exposed to potential conflict with medium intensity of conflict; the most types of conflicts related to the severe and moderate conflict were agricultural and residential lands. The largest percentage of land in Mashhad urban complex is exposed to potential conflict with medium intensity; the most types of conflicts related to two types of severe and moderate conflict were agricultural and residential lands
Extended Abstract
Land Use conflicts due to disorder development and misuse of land have been one of the negative consequences of rapid urbanization and industrialization. Early studies of land use conflict often used qualitative methods for analysis. Currently, the issue of land-use conflict has received more attention, and more advanced methods have been developed to identify and quantify it. The multi-criteria suitability evaluation model is a widely used method of recognizing land use conflicts. Even though many domestic types of research have been conducted regarding land-use suitability, there needs to be more research on the issue of land use conflicts at the regional level in Iran. Taking the Mashhad region, the main goal of this research is to identify the conflicts between ecological, agricultural, and construction land based on a multi-criteria suitability evaluation. Land use conflict in this research is interpreted as if a plot is only suitable for a single function of land use; no land use conflict occurs. However, potential land-use conflict will arise when a plot is suitable for multiple land use functions. To achieve the research goal, we 1) constructed a multi-criteria suitability evaluation for ecological, agricultural, and construction land and 2) identified the types, levels, and distribution of potential land use conflicts.
To identify land use conflicts, 1) this paper constructed the index systems of suitability evaluation of three land-use categories; 2) the analytic hierarchy process was used to determine the weight of each evaluation factor and index; 3) all factors were reclassified from high to low in five levels and obtained a score of 100, 80, 60, 40, 20; 4) Linear weighting method was exerted to calculate the total score of each evaluation unit; 5) Natural breakpoint method was used to classify the suitability level of each land-use, 6) an empirical model carried out to identify land-use function conflict zones and land use function conflict degree.
Results and discussion
The results show that the spatial distribution of land suitability for ecological and residential land-uses has followed a specific spatial alcove. Land suitability for ecological land-use has increased from the center of the area (Mashhad metropolis) to the east and west with the increase in height and moving away from existing cities and roads. Conversely, land suitability for residential use has increased from the surrounding area to the interior.
Regarding quantity, 86% of the area in Mashhad metropolitan city is at risk of potential conflicts. In this area, moderate conflict intensity is the most widely distributed one. The highest conflict intensity was related to moderate conflict intensity, with 62.7%. These high-potential conflict areas account for 23.4% of the total area, which will probably change into actual conflict. The agricultural-construction land conflict is the most widely intense conflict, which forms 18.5%. This type of conflict mostly occurred in the middle of the area and near Mashhad, Targaba, Shandiz, Chenaran, and Golbahar. In this type of conflict, agricultural lands are more likely to be converted into residential, industrial, and construction lands. Another type of extreme conflict ranked next in terms of extent is the conflict between agricultural and ecological land-use, which includes 4.5% of the land. This type of conflict is in parts of the surrounding areas, including the heights of Hezar Masjid and Binaloud. The possibility of converting these lands to agricultural land-use is very high. 12.9% of the grounds are known to be free of conflicts. These lands are only suitable for single land-use. Most of these lands are related to the dominance of construction lands (11.9%). The low conflict between the land-uses, which is the overlapping of the bare suitability area of ecological, agricultural, and construction land on each other, has rarely existed.
Identifying potential land conflicts for predicting the direction of future land-use development and providing appropriate policies is a crucial issue that has attracted much attention worldwide. This research was done to identify land-use conflicts based on land suitability.
For this purpose, land suitability for three agricultural, ecological, and residential uses was obtained using a multi-criteria evaluation method based on natural, spatial, management, and water resources indicators. Land-use suitability is divided into three highly suitable, moderately suitable, and barely suitable areas. Then, by overlaying the three classes of each land use based on the proposed model, we obtained the type and the intensity of conflicts. The intensity of conflicts was obtained in three categories as severe, moderate, and non-conflict and the type of land conflicts were obtained in 12 categories, and the possibility of land use change in the future was predicted based on the intensity and type of existing conflicts.
This research has limitations due to the unavailability of data, especially data related to water resources and population data, which may have influenced the results of land suitability. It is suggested that future researchers use more complete data to investigate land conflicts based on the land suitability model. Also, this research studied the conflicts based on the land suitability model, which has been one of the widely used methods for identifying land conflicts in studies; however, it is possible to use other methods, such as investigating land conflicts from the perspective of geography or environment.
There is no funding support.
Authors’ Contribution
All of the authors approved the content of the manuscript and agreed on all aspects of the work.
Conflict of Interest
Authors declared no conflict of interest.
We are grateful to all the scientific.


Alston, L. J., Libecap, G. D., & Mueller, B. (2000). Land Reform Policies, the Sources of Violent Conflict, and Implications for Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 39(2), 162-188.
Amini, S., Rohani, A., Aghkhani, M. H., Abbaspour-Fard, M. H., & Asgharipour, M. R. (2020). Assessment of land suitability and agricultural production sustainability using a combined approach (Fuzzy-AHP-GIS): A case study of Mazandaran province, Iran. Information Processing in Agriculture, 7(3), 384-402.
Bozdağ, A., Yavuz, F., & Günay, A. S. (2016). AHP and GIS based land suitability analysis for Cihanbeyli (Turkey) County. Environmental Earth Sciences, 75(9).
Brown, G., & Raymond, C. M. (2014). Methods for identifying land use conflict potential using participatory mapping. Landscape and Urban Planning, 122, 196-208.
Calvert, K., & Mabee, W. (2015). More solar farms or more bioenergy crops? Mapping and assessing potential land-use conflicts among renewable energy technologies in eastern Ontario, Canada. Applied Geography, 56, 209-221.
Cui, J., Kong, X., Chen, J., Sun, J., & Zhu, Y. (2021). Spatially Explicit Evaluation and Driving Factor Identification of Land Use Conflict in Yangtze River Economic Belt. Land, 10(1).
Dadashpoor, H., Rezaei rad, H., & Motahari, Z. O. S. (2017). Measurement ecological power for growth and physical development of city by IHWP logic (case study: city of Sabzevar). Geographical Planning of Space6(22), 43-58 (In Persian)
Dong, G., Ge, Y., Jia, H., Sun, C., & Pan, S. (2021). Land Use Multi-Suitability, Land Resource Scarcity and Diversity of Human Needs: A New Framework for Land Use Conflict Identification. Land, 10(10).
Fang, Y., Ai, D., Yang, Y., Sun, W., & Zu, J. (2021). Multi-Objective Spatial Suitability Evaluation and Conflict Optimization Considering Productivity, Sustainability, and Livability in Southwestern Mountainous Areas of China. Sustainability, 14(1).
Hui, E. C. M., & Bao, H. (2013). The logic behind conflicts in land acquisitions in contemporary China: A framework based upon game theory. Land Use Policy, 30(1), 373-380.
Iojă, C. I., Niţă, M. R., Vânău, G. O., Onose, D. A., & Gavrilidis, A. A. (2014). Using multi-criteria analysis for the identification of spatial land-use conflicts in the Bucharest Metropolitan Area. Ecological Indicators, 42, 112-121.
Jeong, J. S., García-Moruno, L., & Hernández-Blanco, J. (2013). A site planning approach for rural buildings into a landscape using a spatial multi-criteria decision analysis methodology. Land Use Policy, 32, 108-118.
Jiang, S., Meng, J., & Zhu, L. (2020). Spatial and temporal analyses of potential land use conflict under the constraints of water resources in the middle reaches of the Heihe River. Land Use Policy, 97.
Jiang, S., Meng, J., Zhu, L., & Cheng, H. (2021). Spatial-temporal pattern of land use conflict in China and its multilevel driving mechanisms. Sci Total Environ, 801, 149697.
Jing, W., Yu, K., Wu, L., & Luo, P. (2021). Potential Land Use Conflict Identification Based on Improved Multi-Objective Suitability Evaluation. Remote Sensing, 13(12).
Kanani, M., Divsalar, A., Ghadami, M., (2011). Classifying the Urban Development Based on Ecological Potential Case Study: Mazandaran Province. Geographical Planning of Space1(1), 53-68. (In Persian)
Kang, Z., Wang, S., Xu, L., Yang, F., & Zhang, S. (2021). Suitability assessment of urban land use in Dalian, China using PNN and GIS. Natural Hazards, 106(1), 913-936.
Karimi, A., & Brown, G. (2017). Assessing multiple approaches for modelling land-use conflict potential from participatory mapping data. Land Use Policy, 67, 253-267.
Kim, I., & Arnhold, S. (2018). Mapping environmental land use conflict potentials and ecosystem services in agricultural watersheds. Sci Total Environ, 630, 827-838.
Kooshki, P. Pourkhabbaz, H. Yousefi Khanghah, S. Javanmardi, S. (2020). Ecological Capacity Modeling of Urban Development (Case Study: Boroujerd City Margin). SPATIAL PLANNING (MODARES HUMAN SCIENCES), 24(2), 111-140. (In Persian)
Liu, Z., Liu, Y., & Baig, M. H. A. (2019). Biophysical effect of conversion from croplands to grasslands in water-limited temperate regions of China. Sci Total Environ, 648, 315-324.
Ma, W., Jiang, G., Chen, Y., Qu, Y., Zhou, T., & Li, W. (2020). How feasible is regional integration for reconciling land use conflicts across the urban–rural interface? Evidence from Beijing–Tianjin–Hebei metropolitan region in China. Land Use Policy, 92.
Makhdoum, M (2000). Fundamental of land use planning. Tehran University Publication (In Persian)
Malmir, M., Zarkesh, M. M., Monavari, S. M., Jozi, S. A., & Sharifi, E. (2016). Analysis of land suitability for urban development in Ahwaz County in southwestern Iran using fuzzy logic and analytic network process (ANP). Environ Monit Assess, 188(8), 447.
Peterseil, J., Wrbka, T., Plutzar, C., Schmitzberger, I., Kiss, A., Szerencsits, E., Reiter, K., Schneider, W., Suppan, F., & Beissmann, H. (2004). Evaluating the ecological sustainability of Austrian agricultural landscapes—the SINUS approach. Land Use Policy, 21(3), 307-320.
Qiu, G., Wang, Y., Guo, S., Niu, Q., Qin, L., Zhu, D., & Gong, Y. (2022). Assessment and Spatial-Temporal Evolution Analysis of Land Use Conflict within Urban Spatial Zoning: Case of the Su-Xi-Chang Region. Sustainability, 14(4).
Taghizadeh-Mehrjardi, R., Nabiollahi, K., Rasoli, L., Kerry, R., & Scholten, T. (2020). Land Suitability Assessment and Agricultural Production Sustainability Using Machine Learning Models. Agronomy, 10(4).
von der Dunk, A., Grêt-Regamey, A., Dalang, T., & Hersperger, A. M. (2011). Defining a typology of peri-urban land-use conflicts – A case study from Switzerland. Landscape and Urban Planning, 101(2), 149-156.
Wessels, K. J., Reyers, B., van Jaarsveld, A. S., & Rutherford, M. C. (2003). Identification of potential conflict areas between land transformation and biodiversity conservation in north-eastern South Africa. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 95(1), 157-178.
Wu, Y., & Heerink, N. (2016). Foreign direct investment, fiscal decentralization and land conflicts in China. China Economic Review, 38, 92-107.
Yang, S., Dou, S., & Li, C. (2020). Land-use conflict identification in urban fringe areas using the theory of leading functional space partition. The Social Science Journal, 1-16.
Ye, Q., Wei, R., & Zhang, P. (2018). A Conflict Identification Method of Urban, Agricultural and Ecological Spaces Based on the Space Conversion Matrix. Sustainability, 10(10).
Yuxi, Z., & Linsheng, Z. (2020). Identifying conflicts tendency between nature-based tourism development and ecological protection in China. Ecological Indicators, 109.
Zhang, Y. J., Li, A. J., & Fung, T. (2012). Using GIS and Multi-criteria Decision Analysis for Conflict Resolution in Land Use Planning. Procedia Environmental Sciences, 13, 2264-2273.
Zhang, Z., Zhou, M., Ou, G., Tan, S., Song, Y., Zhang, L., & Nie, X. (2019). Land Suitability Evaluation and an Interval Stochastic Fuzzy Programming-Based Optimization Model for Land-Use Planning and Environmental Policy Analysis. Int J Environ Res Public Health, 16(21).
Zhou, D., Lin, Z., & Lim, S. H. (2019). Spatial characteristics and risk factor identification for land use spatial conflicts in a rapid urbanization region in China. Environ Monit Assess, 191(11), 677.
Zhou, Xu, J., & Lin, Z. (2017). Conflict or coordination? Assessing land use multi-functionalization using production-living-ecology analysis. Sci Total Environ, 577, 136-147.
Zong, S., Hu, Y., Zhang, Y., & Wang, W. (2021). Identification of land use conflicts in China's coastal zones: From the perspective of ecological security. Ocean & Coastal Management, 213.
Zou, L., Liu, Y., Wang, J., & Yang, Y. (2021). An analysis of land use conflict potentials based on ecological-production-living function in the southeast coastal area of China. Ecological Indicators, 122.