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      Challenges and opportunities in mapping land use intensity globally


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          • Global patterns of land use intensity are poorly understood, particularly in the developing world.

          • The multidimensionality of land use intensity should be considered by jointly using input, output, and system metrics.

          • A range of cropland intensity metrics exist, but existing data are often uncertain.

          • Large data gaps remain for grazing and forestry intensity.

          • Research priorities should include first, better integration of satellite-based and ground based data, second, validating and better documentation of datasets, and third, creation of consistent time series.


          Future increases in land-based production will need to focus more on sustainably intensifying existing production systems. Unfortunately, our understanding of the global patterns of land use intensity is weak, partly because land use intensity is a complex, multidimensional term, and partly because we lack appropriate datasets to assess land use intensity across broad geographic extents. Here, we review the state of the art regarding approaches for mapping land use intensity and provide a comprehensive overview of available global-scale datasets on land use intensity. We also outline major challenges and opportunities for mapping land use intensity for cropland, grazing, and forestry systems, and identify key issues for future research.

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          Most cited references54

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          Global land use change, economic globalization, and the looming land scarcity.

          A central challenge for sustainability is how to preserve forest ecosystems and the services that they provide us while enhancing food production. This challenge for developing countries confronts the force of economic globalization, which seeks cropland that is shrinking in availability and triggers deforestation. Four mechanisms-the displacement, rebound, cascade, and remittance effects-that are amplified by economic globalization accelerate land conversion. A few developing countries have managed a land use transition over the recent decades that simultaneously increased their forest cover and agricultural production. These countries have relied on various mixes of agricultural intensification, land use zoning, forest protection, increased reliance on imported food and wood products, the creation of off-farm jobs, foreign capital investments, and remittances. Sound policies and innovations can therefore reconcile forest preservation with food production. Globalization can be harnessed to increase land use efficiency rather than leading to uncontrolled land use expansion. To do so, land systems should be understood and modeled as open systems with large flows of goods, people, and capital that connect local land use with global-scale factors.
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            Farming the planet: 2. Geographic distribution of crop areas, yields, physiological types, and net primary production in the year 2000

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              Quantifying and mapping the human appropriation of net primary production in earth's terrestrial ecosystems.

              Human appropriation of net primary production (HANPP), the aggregate impact of land use on biomass available each year in ecosystems, is a prominent measure of the human domination of the biosphere. We present a comprehensive assessment of global HANPP based on vegetation modeling, agricultural and forestry statistics, and geographical information systems data on land use, land cover, and soil degradation that localizes human impact on ecosystems. We found an aggregate global HANPP value of 15.6 Pg C/yr or 23.8% of potential net primary productivity, of which 53% was contributed by harvest, 40% by land-use-induced productivity changes, and 7% by human-induced fires. This is a remarkable impact on the biosphere caused by just one species. We present maps quantifying human-induced changes in trophic energy flows in ecosystems that illustrate spatial patterns in the human domination of ecosystems, thus emphasizing land use as a pervasive factor of global importance. Land use transforms earth's terrestrial surface, resulting in changes in biogeochemical cycles and in the ability of ecosystems to deliver services critical to human well being. The results suggest that large-scale schemes to substitute biomass for fossil fuels should be viewed cautiously because massive additional pressures on ecosystems might result from increased biomass harvest.

                Author and article information

                Curr Opin Environ Sustain
                Curr Opin Environ Sustain
                Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability
                Elsevier Science
                1 October 2013
                October 2013
                : 5
                : 5
                : 484-493
                [1 ]Geography Department, Humboldt-University Berlin, Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin, Germany
                [2 ]Earth System Analysis, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, 14412 Potsdam, Germany
                [3 ]Institute of Social Ecology Vienna (SEC), Alpen-Adria Universität Klagenfurt, Wien, Graz, 1070 Vienna, Austria
                [4 ]Georges Lemaitre Earth and Climate Research Center, Earth and Life Institute, F.R.S-FNRS & Université Catholique de Louvain, 1348 Louvain-La-Neuve, Belgium
                [5 ]Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Central and Eastern Europe (IAMO), Theodor-Lieser-Str. 2, 06120 Halle (Saale), Germany
                [6 ]Institute for Environmental Studies, Amsterdam Global Change Institute, VU University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
                [7 ]Department of Geography and Geology, University of Copenhagen, Øster Voldgade 10, DK-1350 Copenhagen, Denmark
                [8 ]European Forest Institute (EFI), Sustainability and Climate Change Programme, Torikatu 34, 80100 Joensuu, Finland
                © 2013 The Authors

                This document may be redistributed and reused, subject to certain conditions.



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