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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In this modelling study, the authors examine potential trade-offs between sufficient food provisioning in the future and sustaining biodiversity. On the one hand they find that cropland expansion increases food security, particularly in areas which are currently struggling with access to safe and nutritious food.
Among climate mitigation options, afforestation offers its carbon sequestration potential at a moderate cost, and therefore might be used at a large scale in the future. As suitable land is limited though, competition of land for forest with crop and pastureland might drive food prices up.
Strong demand for vegetable oil has led to a boom in the Indonesian and Malaysian palm oil industries since 1990. Typically planted in extremely large monoculture plantations, the crop has been implicated in biodiversity loss and human rights issues.
The need to make the best use of agricultural land in the face of growing future demand has made sustainable intensification an important area of food systems research. Previous research which focused on this topic, looked at the spatial distribution of the intensity of agricultural production and how this has changed, but according to the authors, did not provide sufficient insight into the drivers of intensification patterns, especially at subnational scales.
As methane produced by ruminants is a potent greenhouse gas (GHG), many researchers and organisations have pointed to the necessity of reducing ruminant stocks around the world. In this study, the authors argue that with the right crop and grazing management, ruminants might not only reduce overall GHG emissions, but could, in fact, facilitate increases in soil carbon, and reduce environmental damage related to current cropping practices.
This letter in Global Change Biology responds to a paper published earlier in the year in Nature Climate Change by de Silva et al (summarised by the FCRN here) which concludes that a combination of strict land controls and an increase in beef production in the Amazon could lead to greater emissions reduction than a scenario of land control and no beef production increases.
In this paper, land change scenarios are modelled that include biodiversity protection or afforestation for carbon sequestration as an explicit demand which competes with demand for food and feed production.
These two studies discuss afforestation projects in relation to 1) land availability and sheep farming in Scotland, and 2) the biodiversity losses that may be associated with such projects.
According to this UK study there is a potential for improving soil carbon assessments if inventories increasingly assess soils below the current common level of 30 cm. The researchers estimate that over double the amount of carbon is stored in all UK grassland soils when looking at a depth of 1 metre compared to estimates where only the top 30 cm of soil is considered.