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.

Photo credit: Sam Beebe (Flickr, creative commons licence, Attribution 2.0 Generic)
31 March 2016

This paper in Science discusses the potential of yield increase incentives as a way of convincing farmers to save land to protect biodiversity rather than increasing farmland.   The increase of agricultural land is one of the leading causes of biodiversity loss and greenhouse gas emissions in tropical countries. This paper argues that increasing yields on existing agricultural land can provide farmers with the incentive to spare land for wildlife and nature.

Photo credit: USDA NRCS South Dakota (Flickr, Creative commons)
10 March 2016

In this study, researchers from the Netherlands and Italy investigate the long-term (past and future) changes in phosphorus (P) budgets in grasslands used for grazing and in connection with croplands. The authors recognise a lack in the literature of studies characterising the P cycle in relation to grasslands and croplands, and - as grass-dependent livestock demand is increasing – they seek to address this lack of understanding.

16 February 2016

Extract from book introduction:

The growth in global population and more demanding consumption patterns around the world are placing ever increasing pressures on land and its resources. This is resulting in conflicts and the unsustainable use of humanity’s resource base.

16 February 2016

In this paper, researchers from James Cook University, Australia, assess the impact on the environment and agriculture of 33 planned or existing “development corridors” in sub-Saharan Africa. Development corridors are tracts of land earmarked for large-scale infrastructure expansions (e.g. road access) with the aim of increasing agricultural production.

3 February 2016

This commentary published in Science Letters, discusses new data recently released by FAO’s statistical division, and makes the case that the current large-scale reversion in pasture area is opening up a potential conservation opportunity. Author and FCRN member Joseph Poore argues that as grazing of land has become more intensive globally, we are seeing ruminant outputs increasing while large agricultural areas are being abandoned, and he argues that this offers a new opportunity for land-sparing conservation.

18 January 2016

In this paper, researchers at the National University of Singapore identify the major land use changes associated with mangrove deforestation in Southeast Asia, with an aim of ultimately facilitating appropriately targeted policy interventions to manage the forests. Over a 12-year period, the researchers quantified LULCC in deforested patches, and classified the replacement land uses (e.g. aquaculture).

18 January 2016

In this paper, researchers from a number of UK and US research institutions explore the potential for land sparing as a greenhouse gas (GHG) offsetting strategy – that is, by increasing crop and livestock yields so as to enable agricultural land to be freed up and used for habitat restoration (for example) an enable carbon sequestration. 

17 December 2015

This paper discusses the use of food waste as a feed source for pigs reared for pork in the EU, the current policy landscape and implications for agricultural land use, profits and pork production of using waste as feed.  The authors find that re-legalising the use of food waste as pig feed in the EU could spare 1.8 million hectares of global agricultural land, improve profitability for many farmers, and produce pork of high quality.

2 December 2015

Research published in Nature Climate Change shows that accelerated erosion due to agricultural management is a major threat to food security and soil sustainability.

Erosion is a natural process that continually shapes the land surface. The removal of soil also removes carbon contained in that soil. With erosion removing top soil it removes the layer of the soil that has the greatest concentration of carbon.

16 November 2015

This report entitled “Explaining Extreme Events of 2013 from a Climate Perspective” is the fourth in a series of annual reports published by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  It provides an assessment of how climate change may have affected the strength and likelihood of individual extreme events.

16 November 2015

This paper argues that the failure of protected areas to guard biodiversity partly reflects a lack of science available. The paper offers strategic guidance on the types of science needed to be conducted so protected areas can be placed and managed in ways that support the overall goal to avert biodiversity loss.

9 October 2015

This report by the Science-Policy Partnership Network synthesizes current scientific information to help oil palm policy makers make land-use decisions which jointly meet biodiversity and carbon conservation agendas.

The Science-Policy Partnership Network is led by University of York and was set up by the ‘Socially and Environmentally Sustainable Oil palm Research’ (SEnSOR) project with funding from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office and The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), and includes representatives from oil palm growers, consumer goods companies, NGOs, government and the RSPO.

30 September 2015

New research from Cambridge University finds that providing farmers and farmer industries with financial incentives to mitigate agriculture’s impact on the environment positively effects greenhouse gas reduction and increased biodiversity at the aggregate level.

The study analysed investment in two key types of agri-environment schemes: measures to spare land for conservation, and measures (such as taxation) intended to limit fertiliser use. The research team plotted this against national trends for farmland bird populations and emissions from synthetic fertiliser across the US, Canada, Australia and Europe.

11 September 2015

A new paper published in Global Environmental Change analyses 50 years of data from FAO (from 1961 to 2011) to try to understand the drivers for global agricultural land use change. Pasture forms the largest component of agricultural land globally, but previous research on agricultural land use has focused disproportionately on the role of arable crops. 

20 May 2015

This study, which assesses the food supply available to more than 140 nations with populations greater than 1 million, shows that the globalization of trade is creating instability in the food distribution system.  As the world population increases, placing increasing pressure on use of limited land and water resources, food demand has grown and globalisation has made the food supply more sensitive to environmental and market fluctuations.

20 May 2015

This paper finds that the introduction of legally binding agreements, signed by ranchers and slaughterhouses in Brazil, have been effective in halting deforestation.

20 May 2015

One of the main concerns about bioenergy is that its production potentially competes with land needed to produce food.  In this paper researchers discuss the potential of a bioenergy feedstock/vegetable double-cropping system, in which both biofuel and pumpkin are produced.  

31 March 2015

Some scientists have suggested that Africa's wet savannahs could be ideal for growing crops needed to meet the growing demand for food and bioenergy. In this paper however, researchers from Princeton University and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) warn that farmland conversion of these savannahs will come at a much higher cost than previously thought.

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