Historic trends predict future global reforestation unlikely

Oct 09, 2013
Increasing crop yield and decreasing food consumption are needed to slow or reverse deforestation. Credit: Madhur Anand

Feeding a growing global population while also slowing or reversing global deforestation may only be possible if agricultural yields rise and/or per capita food consumption declines over the next century, according to historic global food consumption and land use trends. Published October 9, 2013, in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Chris Pagnutti, Chris Bauch, and Madhur Anand from the University of Guelph, this research underscores the long-term challenge of feeding everyone while still conserving natural habitat.

To predict future global forest trends, the scientists used several centuries of global land use data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and other sources. They incorporated this data into their mathematical model designed to capture how land use transitions, including deforestation and reforestation, are driven by three key factors: agricultural yield, per capita , and world population change over time.

Based on historic trends that show growing food consumption outpacing rising , global is predicted to decline about 10% further, stabilizing at roughly 22% forest cover over the next century. Unless new technological advances increase yields, or strategies to decrease food consumption are introduced, a switch to global reforestation remains unlikely. Under an alternative scenario where food production and consumption stabilize, reforestation could increase global forest cover to about 35% if it occurs within the next 70 years. Additionally, researchers found that short-term trends in reforestation, deforestation, and abandoned agricultural land may play a role in understanding long-term forest trends.

The results suggest that equal effort should be directed toward finding ways to boost agricultural yield, disseminate those technologies to developing countries, and decrease per capita consumption, thus reducing land use pressures. Anand elaborates, "What is new here is the provision of a set of quantitative guidelines (the mathematical model outputs) that demonstrate exactly how much improvements to agricultural yield or decreases in consumption will affect forest cover dynamics in time. Not every outcome was predictable to us before we had this model, especially the case of the 'false forest transition'."

Explore further: Yield trends insufficient to double global crop production by 2050

More information: Pagnutti C, Bauch CT, Anand M (2013) Outlook on a Worldwide Forest Transition. PLOS ONE 8(10): e75890. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0075890

Related Stories

Trade emerging as a key driver of Brazilian deforestation

Apr 05, 2013

A new study published online April 4th in the journal Environmental Research Letters finds that trade and global consumption of Brazilian beef and soybeans is increasingly driving Brazilian deforestation. Consequently, curren ...

The intensity of land use doubled in the 20th century

Jun 04, 2013

The growth of green plants – which can be measured in terms of "net primary production", or NPP for short – provides the energetic foundation for all life on earth. The share of NPP appropriated by humans (HANPP) through ...

Recommended for you

Study links California drought to global warming

23 minutes ago

While researchers have sometimes connected weather extremes to man-made global warming, usually it is not done in real time. Now a study is asserting a link between climate change and both the intensifying California drought ...

Untangling Brazil's controversial new forest code

1 hour ago

Approved in 2012, Brazil's new Forest Code has few admirers. Agricultural interests argue that it threatens the livelihoods of farmers. Environmentalists counter that it imperils millions of hectares of forest, ...

Sea floor conditions mimicked for drilling platforms

5 hours ago

Mobile jack-up drilling platforms used in the oil and gas industry are at risk of rejection before installation due to their use in harsher environments and deeper waters—but University of WA scientists ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

yvonne_s_bender
4.7 / 5 (3) Oct 09, 2013
There is an amazing video called 'Greening The Desert' by a guy called Geoff Lawton that totally restores my hope for the Earth and 'life after growth'. There is a system known as Perma-culture pioneered by Bill Mollison and Sepp Holzer decades ago. People should speak about that and the Nobel Prizes outstanding for these guys. Retraining re: rain water ground storage and aquifer recharge etc We live in a system we should get with it and stop working against it. Read a book people.

More news stories

Study links California drought to global warming

While researchers have sometimes connected weather extremes to man-made global warming, usually it is not done in real time. Now a study is asserting a link between climate change and both the intensifying California drought ...

Untangling Brazil's controversial new forest code

Approved in 2012, Brazil's new Forest Code has few admirers. Agricultural interests argue that it threatens the livelihoods of farmers. Environmentalists counter that it imperils millions of hectares of forest, ...

Autism Genome Project delivers genetic discovery

A new study from investigators with the Autism Genome Project, the world's largest research project on identifying genes associated with risk for autism, has found that the comprehensive use of copy number variant (CNV) genetic ...

Genetic code of the deadly tsetse fly unraveled

Mining the genome of the disease-transmitting tsetse fly, researchers have revealed the genetic adaptions that allow it to have such unique biology and transmit disease to both humans and animals.