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Agricultural sustainability and intensive production practices.

Nature

Water, metabolism, Animals, Animals, Domestic, trends, Conservation of Natural Resources, methods, Ecosystem, Food Supply, Pest Control, Population Growth, Soil, standards, Agriculture

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      Abstract

      A doubling in global food demand projected for the next 50 years poses huge challenges for the sustainability both of food production and of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and the services they provide to society. Agriculturalists are the principal managers of global usable lands and will shape, perhaps irreversibly, the surface of the Earth in the coming decades. New incentives and policies for ensuring the sustainability of agriculture and ecosystem services will be crucial if we are to meet the demands of improving yields without compromising environmental integrity or public health.

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      Most cited references 41

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      Human Domination of Earth's Ecosystems

       P. Vitousek (1997)
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        Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning: current knowledge and future challenges.

        The ecological consequences of biodiversity loss have aroused considerable interest and controversy during the past decade. Major advances have been made in describing the relationship between species diversity and ecosystem processes, in identifying functionally important species, and in revealing underlying mechanisms. There is, however, uncertainty as to how results obtained in recent experiments scale up to landscape and regional levels and generalize across ecosystem types and processes. Larger numbers of species are probably needed to reduce temporal variability in ecosystem processes in changing environments. A major future challenge is to determine how biodiversity dynamics, ecosystem processes, and abiotic factors interact.
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          Forecasting agriculturally driven global environmental change.

          During the next 50 years, which is likely to be the final period of rapid agricultural expansion, demand for food by a wealthier and 50% larger global population will be a major driver of global environmental change. Should past dependences of the global environmental impacts of agriculture on human population and consumption continue, 10(9) hectares of natural ecosystems would be converted to agriculture by 2050. This would be accompanied by 2.4- to 2.7-fold increases in nitrogen- and phosphorus-driven eutrophication of terrestrial, freshwater, and near-shore marine ecosystems, and comparable increases in pesticide use. This eutrophication and habitat destruction would cause unprecedented ecosystem simplification, loss of ecosystem services, and species extinctions. Significant scientific advances and regulatory, technological, and policy changes are needed to control the environmental impacts of agricultural expansion.
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            Author and article information

            Journal
            10.1038/nature01014
            12167873

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