Land Utilisation and Capability Indicator (LUCI)


Land Utilisation and Capability Indicator (LUCI) is a tool that allows users to explore the capability of a landscape to provide a variety of ecosystem services, such as agricultural production, flood and diffuse pollutant mitigation, carbon sequestration, and habitat provision. It allows for the development of alternate scenarios so that different management decisions can be assessed and compared.


The Land Utilisation and Capability Indicator (LUCI) model allows the mapping of ecosystem services from the sub-field to national scale, and modelling of the impact of management services on these services. It also allow assessment of likely trade-offs and opportunities for spatially optimising interventions. Currently services include agricultural productivity, flood risk, erosion, nitrogen, phosphorus loss to rivers, carbon storage and emission rates, habitat diversity, and connectivity for broadleaved woodland species.

LUCI, which started off as Polyscape (see Bagstad et al. 2013; Jackson et al. 2013), is an integrated, spatially explicit, multi-ecosystem services framework that identifies the impact and trade-offs of land management actions from a very fine (subfield) scale to a regional or national level.

LUCI is a GIS toolbox that uses multiple criteria analysis to explore the impacts of decisions on land use or management changes. It is primarily an effective visualisation tool for determining trade-offs in different ecosystem service provision at the landscape scale, with a strong focus on agricultural landscapes.

There are six tools; five consider current and potential impacts of land management change on single service criteria. These are 1) habitat networks; 2) flooding; 3) erosion/sediment delivery; 4) carbon sequestration; 5) agricultural productivity. The sixth tool displays synergies and trade-offs amongst any number of these five ecosystem services. The tool is implemented in ArcGIS.

All LUCI calculations and valuations are produced at the resolution of the input digital elevation model (DEM). This is the obvious choice for water and diffuse pollution services and allows for sub-field management changes e.g. riparian strips and field boundaries as well as sub-catchment and catchment changes to be assessed.

It is designed to be simple and transparent, with the ability for engagement by (and customisation for) stakeholders. LUCI uses innovative algorithms that maintain biophysical principles and spatial connections, but which are orders of magnitude faster than previous approaches.

Changes in land management at field level can be inputted to the tool and “traffic light” coded impact maps, produced in seconds to minutes, allowing quick visualisation of the impact of different decisions on ecosystem services manifest at landscape scales. Interactive capabilities to facilitate stakeholder engagement and to allow local requirements and knowledge to be easily incorporated in decision making are included.

LUCI is particularly useful if you are interested in the cumulative impact of many small features (or changes to these features) in the landscape on a variety of ecosystem services. For example,if you are a land manager you can explore how riparian planting might change river water flow and quality, or where you might be able to plant trees to improve drainage on your land and provide shelter for stock. If you are managing a catchment, you could investigate where and how you could retain water in the upper catchment to improve flood protection downstream.

Such a tool may also be used in the future to further conservation in areas outside public conservation land (e.g. agricultural landscapes), including where conservation is contentious due to conflicting social, economic and environmental values, by:

  • Helping to prioritise the protection and/or restoration of natural remnants in agricultural landscapes that have the highest cost-benefit with respect to conservation, production and societal values
  • Identifying and retiring land that is uneconomical to farm (e.g. if it is prone to flooding or erosion), and setting it aside to be managed for biodiversity values and other ecosystem services (e.g. cultural ecosystem services such as recreation and identity values)
  • Helping farmers and land managers to mitigate or reduce their impacts on other ecosystem services and the environment (e.g. spatially explicit ecosystem service models can be used to identify areas where targeted plantings of indigenous vegetation are likely to maximise water quality benefits by reducing sediment and nutrient inputs into waterways)


State of Development Released and updated
Current Development Activity LUCI is under continual development, with its developers working with other organisations to customise it for the New Zealand context. Therefore, there may be an opportunity to customise it for conservation-related applications.

Development Contact

Dr Bethanna Jackson (NZ)
Victoria University of Wellington


Outcome Areas Environmental, Economic
Management Domains Land, Ecosystem Services, Freshwater, Biodiversity
Subdomains Water Quality, Erosion/Sediment, Ecosystem/Habitat, Crop/Farm Systems
Intended End Users
  • Regional Council Scientist
  • Researcher
Spatial Resolutions 10-100m
Spatial Extents Local (i.e. Catchment or District), Land or Business Unit, Regional, National
Steady State or Dynamic Unknown
Level of Integration Environmental, Economic

Input & Output Data

Key Input Data Rainfall, Potential Evaporation Soils data, DEM
Input Data Formats GIS compatible files
Key Output Data flow, nutrient accumultion, carbon storage, othe ecosystem services
Output Data Formats GIS Compatible Files


Open/Closed Source Closed Source
Licence Type Free to not-for-profit organisations. Requests for use assessed on case-by-case basis

User Information

Operating Systems MS Windows, Mac OS X
Software Needed ArcGIS Spatial Analyst Licence
User Interface Graphical desktop ESRI GIS Toolbox
Ease of Use Moderate Level of GIS expertise required
Use in Policy Process Plan (Policy Formulation), Check (Policy Evaluation), Review (Issue Identification)

Technical Considerations

Programming Language Phython in GIS Toolbox
Analytical Techniques GIS, Multiple Criteria Decision Analysis
Model Structure

Spatially explicit GIS model. Links combined spatial input data for each pixel with a lookup table and applies process representation for flow of water and nutrients over the landscape. Habitat connectivity is simulated based on cost-distance approach taking into account characteristics of adjacent habitats. The model is temporally lumped- calibrated to give long term annual average values.

Keywords Ecosystem services, Land capability, indicators, Water quality, Soil, Sediment, River flow, Phosphorus, Other Services, Nitrogen, Management outcome, Land use, Land cover
Greenhouse gas fluxes, Climate scenarios, Biodiversity

Ecosystem Services Modelling - University of Victoria : LUCI Projects

Ecosystems Knowledge Website - LUCI Page

LUCI - Website

Key References

Powerpoint Presentation: Introduction to the LUCI model: An ecosystem service modelling framework and GIS decision support tool

Bagsted et al. 2013 A comparative assessment of decision-support tools for ecosystem services quantification and valuation . Ecosystem Services, 5, 27-39

Jackson et al. (2013). Polyscape: a GIS mapping toolbox providing efficient and spatially explicit landscape-scale valuation of multiple ecosystem services. Urban and Landscape Planning, 112, 74-88.

Katrina Sharps,,(2017): Comparing strengths and weaknesses of three ecosystem services modelling tools in a diverse UK river catchment. Science of The Total Environment, Volumes 584–585, Pages 118-130.

Associated Case Studies

LUCI - N & P Export Coefficents: Tuapaka Catchment

Each application uses increasingly detailed input data and the results are compared to OVERSEERTM predictions, as well as instream nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) measurements.


Other Key Case Studies

Trodahl, M., Burkitt, L., Bretherton, M., Deslippe, J., Jackson, B. & Metherell, A., (2017): Developing N & P Export Coefficients for Rural Landscape Modelling in LUCI. In: Science and policy: nutrient management challenges for the next generation. (Eds L.D. Currie and M.J. Hedley). Occasional Report No. 30. Fertilizer and Lime Research Centre, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand. 9 pages.

Martha I. Trodahl, M., Jackson, B., Deslippe, J., & Metherell, A.(2017): Investigating trade-offs between water quality and agricultural productivity using the Land Utilisation and Capability Indicator (LUCI) – A New Zealand application. Ecosystem Services. Volume 26, Part B,Pages 388-399.