Multi-scale integrated analysis of rural Laos: Studying metabolic patterns of land uses across different levels and scales

Tarik Serrano-Tovar, Mario Giampietro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents an application of the Multi-Scale Integrated Analysis of Societal and Ecosystem Metabolism (MuSIASEM) approach to the analysis of rural land uses. Using secondary data on farming systems in Laos, we illustrate how the concept of metabolic pattern can be used to establish links between the various indicators of performance of rural systems. To this purpose, we characterize the socioeconomic activities in rural Laos by a series of quantitative indicators defined across: (i) different hierarchical levels of organization described at different scales (i.e. households, rural villages, administrative regions and the whole country) and (ii) different dimensions of analysis, including economic, agronomic, social, biophysical, and ecological analysis. The MuSIASEM approach simultaneously employs two non-equivalent criteria for quantification. The observed rural system is described in terms of an integrated set of flow elements (money, food, energy, water, fertilizer and other materials), which are mapped against two distinct fund elements: (i) a multi-level matrix of human activity (flows being expressed in terms of intensity per hour) and (ii) a multi-level matrix of land uses (flows being expressed as density per hectare). Our case study shows that in this way it is possible to move across different hierarchical levels, scales and dimensions, to arrive at an integrated representation of the metabolic pattern of farming systems. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-170
JournalLand Use Policy
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Integrated assessment
  • Land use analysis
  • Laos
  • Multi-scale analysis
  • Rural systems


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