Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Land

Just under 40% of the entire terrestrial surface of our planet is used for agriculture, the vast majority of this for pasture. The land area which can be defined as wilderness – areas where humans have little influence – accounts for around 20% of the total land area and this extent is diminishing. These wilderness areas are, however, vital for the continued existence of wildlife plant species, and ecosystem services. As human populations grow and their lifestyle and consumption patterns become more resource demanding, the pressure on land use is increasing, and the multiple uses we have for land are often in competition with one another. Different cultures define ownership and rights to use land in contrasting ways, making land not only a precious resource but often a focus of contention too.

29 March 2017

In this Nature commentary Jess Davies from Lancaster Environment Centre discusses the urgent need to deal with the degradation of our soils, focusing on the need for the private sector to take this sustainability threat seriously by taking action on soil. Today one-third of all soils and more than half of agricultural soils are moderately or highly degraded.

Crustmania, Deforestation, Flickr, Creative Commons – Attribution 2.0 Generic
7 March 2017

This perspective article exposes and explains uncertainties in our historical calculations of carbon fluxes associated with land use and land cover change, and uses comparisons between dynamic global vegetation models (DGVMs) to estimate the effects of these uncertainties on historical, current and future assessments of carbon fluxes between the land and air.

Photo credit: Bruno Girin, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0
15 February 2017

With global trade, UK consumption patterns are displacing cropland use to other countries. This paper by FCRN members Henri de Ruiter, Jennie Macdiarmid and Pete Smith looks at the environmental consequences of competition for global agricultural land and specifically at the total land footprint associated with the total livestock product supply in the UK.  

Photo credit: DFID - UK Department for International Development, Women and men in northern Rwanda work on a public works site, building terraces to prevent soil erosion, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.
24 January 2017

This article by agricultural researchers in Spain reviews the historical changes in land use and soil management practices, and examines how these changes have contributed to soil erosion in the past, before presenting modelling data to show how soil erosion may impact on agricultural yields in the future.

17 January 2017

In this Nature Comment article, Elena Bennett of the McGill School of Environment and the Department of Natural Resource Sciences, Québec, argues against the underlying premise of the ‘land-sparing’ vs ‘land-sharing’ debate that has dominated the agriculture-environment discourse for decades, and advocates a new and more holistic approach that focuses on maximising human well-being.

Photo credit: Lorraine, BEST of SHOW March 2010 - Oregon Society of Artists - Field Burning, Flickr, Creative Commons licence 2.0
22 November 2016

One of the greatest challenges of this century is figuring out how to feed more people, while significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, just as other demands on land - for example, for sequestration and bioenergy production - are increasing. 

Photo credit: Michael Foley, Paddy harvest ballet, Flickr, Creative Commons licence 2.0
17 November 2016

Over the past half-century, the paradigm for agricultural development has been to maximize yields through intensifying production, especially for cereal crops. But achieving food security and building a healthy, resilient global food supply is about more than just the quantity of calories provided. New metrics of success and methods of evaluation are needed in order to measure progress towards meeting the world’s nutritional needs within environmental limits.

Photo credit: Scion_cho, Junked, Flickr, Creative Commons licence 2.0
24 October 2016

A key ingredient in junk food is vegetable oil. 60% of this oil is from oil palm and soybean, production of which has been expanding in Southeast Asia and South America, resulting in widespread deforestation and biodiversity loss. In this article, the authors calculate the amount of current deforestation due to vegetable oil consumption (through junk food) and extrapolate vegetable oil demand to predict the deforestation future consumption patterns would cause by 2050.

18 October 2016

This report by Zero Carbon Australia, outlines how research on greenhouse gas emissions from land use (agriculture and forestry) can be reduced to zero net emissions, coupled with economic opportunities and increased resilience in the face of climate change. The land use sector is the second largest source of emissions in Australia and is highly exposed to the impacts of climate change. 15% of total emissions in Australia are from the agriculture and forestry sectors, the largest component of which is land clearing for grazing.

Photo: Joshua Rappeneker, Beef, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0
11 October 2016

An academic debate on the controversial possibility of decreasing greenhouse gas emissions via increased beef production in the Brazilian Cerrado finds a new set of commentators, who have responded to an original paper by de Oliveira Silva et al. earlier in 2016 in the same journal, Nature Climate Change.

Photo: David Leo Veksler, Binjang Forest Park, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0
11 October 2016

Initiated in 1999, the Grain-for-Green Program was set up primarily to reduce soil erosion and uses cash payments to incentivise people to replant trees on sloped crop and scrubland. This study examines the effects on bird and bee species in the scheme across the country. It finds that the program has not greatly benefited birds and bees due to the common practice of monoculture tree planting.

4 October 2016

The EU uses more than its fair share of global land; in 2010 the amount of land needed to satisfy our consumption of agricultural goods and services was 43% greater than the land available within its boundaries. This report stresses the responsibility that the EU has to measure, monitor and reduce its global land footprint.

Photo: Pejman Parvandi, Footprint, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0
4 October 2016

There is increasing evidence that human demands on natural systems are accelerating and could affect the stability and services provided by these systems. This paper aims to aid understanding of the temporal and spatial variability of human pressures on natural systems, which provides a foundation for environmental damage mitigation. Recent advances in remote sensing have allowed great development in mapping of human pressures, particularly in forested areas. Other pressures, such as roads and pasture lands, have by comparison been overlooked.

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