Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Land use and land use change

Image: Max Pixel, Cow eating farm, CC0 Public Domain
18 September 2018

If the US were to shift to entirely grass-finished beef (vs. grain-finished), then the US cattle population would have to increase by 30% relative to today, because grass-fed cattle gain weight more slowly than those fattened in feedlots. Furthermore, existing pastures would have to become 40%-370% more productive to avoid converting more natural habitat to farmland or competition with human food supply. Methane emissions from the cattle’s digestive systems might increase by 43%, again because of slower growth rates.

Image: Leon Brooks, Pina plantation, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain
4 September 2018

A recent paper uses data from three countries (Ghana, Mexico and Poland) to determine whether more carbon can be kept in above-ground stocks by land sparing (increasing farms yields to minimise the conversion of natural habitats to farmland) or land sharing (increasing carbon stocks on farms, at the cost of converting more natural habitat to farmland because of lower yields). Land sparing maintained the highest above-ground carbon stocks in all cases studied.

31 July 2018

This book, by Ramesh Ray and S Ramachandran, presents technological interventions in ethanol production from food crops, addresses food security issues arising from bioethanol production and identifies development bottlenecks.

17 July 2018

The UK’s Committee on Climate Change has released its 2018 Progress Report to Parliament on Reducing UK Emissions. Chapter 6 focuses on agriculture and land use, land-use change and forestry. The report finds the UK agricultural emissions were unchanged between 2008 and 2016. In 2017, half of farmers did not think it was important to consider emissions when making decisions about farming practices. The forestry sector’s ability to sequester carbon has levelled off due to the average age of trees increasing relative to the past. Chapter 6 makes only passing reference to demand-side measures for agricultural emissions reductions (see Figure 6.9).

10 July 2018

The European Commission's Joint Research Centre has published a new World Atlas of Desertification, which provides maps of different factors relevant to desertification such as land use, human appropriation of biological productivity, virtual water use, smallholder agriculture and livestock production.

Image: Trase Media Pack, Soy farm truck - Brazil
10 July 2018

Trase - a partnership between the Stockholm Environment Institute and Global Canopy - has released the Trase Yearbook 2018, which presents the latest insights on the sustainability of global agricultural commodity supply chains associated with tropical deforestation: the focus this year is on soy. The Trase Yearbook highlights how just six companies account for 57% of Brazilian soy exports. Taken together, the supply chains of these six traders are associated with two-thirds of the total deforestation risk directly linked to soy expansion, the majority of it in the Cerrado, one of the world’s most biodiverse savannahs.

Image: Bob Blaylock, Saccharomyces cerevisiae — baker's yeast, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
10 July 2018

A new paper has estimated the economic and environmental potential of feeding livestock with industrially-fermented microbes such as bacteria, yeast, fungi and algae instead of crop-based feed. The study finds that microbial protein could replace 10-19% of crop-based animal feed protein, with decreases in land use, climate impact and nitrogen pollution.

Image: Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington, Rough-skinned newt at Yaquina Head, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
26 June 2018

A new paper examines how both climate change and land use could affect future biodiversity. It finds that, by 2070, climate change could become a greater driver of species loss than land use change. Climate change alone could cause species loss of 11% to 29% relative to 1961-1960, depending on the severity of temperature rise.

11 June 2018

This book, by Annoula Paschalidou, Michael Tsatiris, Kyriaki Kitikidou and Christina Papadopoulou, identifies the challenges and opportunities surrounding the conflict between food production and energy crop production.

Image: vbranyik, Corn cornfield fall, Pixabay, CC0 Creative Commons
11 June 2018

FCRN member Ben Phalan of the Universidade Federal da Bahia has written a paper discussing the strengths and limitations of the land sparing-sharing framework, which aims to allocate land use and production intensity so as to maximise the value of land for wildlife while still producing enough food for people. He notes that most studies show that wildlife would be favoured by producing food intensely on as little land as possible, and addresses some common criticisms of the model.

26 May 2018

The electronic Rothamsted Archive provides data on agricultural experiments (starting in 1843) and weather records (since 1853). A recent paper gives an official account of the history of the archive. The archive includes results of experiments on wheat, permanent grassland, barley, woodland and rotational systems.

Image: Sheep81, Northern White Rhinoceros Angalifu, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain
22 May 2018

Although humans only make up 0.01% of life on Earth by weight, 83% of wild mammals and 15% of fish have been lost since the start of human civilisation, according to a new study. The study also finds that, of all mammals on Earth, 36% are humans, 60% are livestock and 4% are wild mammals, while 70% of birds are chicken and other poultry with only 30% being wild.

Image: Eric Jones, An enclave of grazing land south of Tyddyn Du, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
21 May 2018

Data visualisations by Max Roser and Hannah Ritchie, published at Our World In Data, show global land use types, changes over time and land use in agriculture. For example, a graph shows that half of the Earth’s habitable land surface is used for agriculture, of which 77% is used for livestock (including both grazing land and land for feed production). For comparison, livestock accounts for 17% of global calorie supply and 33% of global protein supply.​

21 May 2018

This open access book, edited by Kate Schreckenberg, Georgina Mace and Mahesh Poudyal, explores the link between ecosystems services and alleviating poverty. Topics include trade-offs associated with land intensification, population dynamics, governance for ecosystem health and human wellbeing, and payments for ecosystems services.

Image: United Soybean Board, Soybean harvest, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
21 May 2018

The paper presents land use scenarios that provide enough food for 9 billion people, biodiversity protection and terrestrial carbon storage while staying inside the planetary boundaries for land and water use. The main features of these scenarios are improved agricultural productivity (through reducing the gap between current and maximum potential crop yields, and replacing some ruminant meat production with pork and poultry) and redistribution of agricultural production to areas with relatively high productivity and water supplies but low existing levels of biodiversity.

Image: European Space Agency, Central-eastern Brazil, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
15 May 2018

Better models are needed to assess and manage conflicting requirements for ecosystems services from land, a recent paper argues. These “uber integrated assessment models”, as the paper calls them, would help decision-makers to better understand the links between local and global land use policies.

Image: NASA, Deforestation in Amazonia, seen from satellite, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain
30 April 2018

Tropical deforestation is nearing a critical point, beyond which the rate of forest fragmentation could increase much more rapidly than the rate of forest area loss, according to a study. Fragmentation can have negative effects on biodiversity and also increases carbon emissions beyond those from just the deforested areas, since trees are at greater risk of dying on the edges between forest and cleared land. The researchers predict that reforestation and a reduction in the rate of deforestation are both needed if fragmentation is to be reversed.

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