The expansion of farmlands to meet the growing food demand of the world’s ever expanding population places a heavy burden on natural ecosystems. A new IIASA study however shows that about half the land currently needed to grow food crops could be spared if attainable crop yields were achieved globally and crops were grown where they are most productive.
The land sparing debate, which was sparked around 2005 by conservation biologists, recognized that there is usually a limit to the extent to which farmland can be made ‘wildlife friendly’ without compromising yields, while most threatened species only profit from the sparing or restoration of their natural habitats. Interest in this topic recently gained new momentum through the Half Earth project, which aims to return half the area of land currently being used for other purposes to natural land cover to restrict biodiversity loss and address other impacts of land use such as greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the authors of the study published in Nature Sustainability, the need for this type of strategy is urgent, given the increasing global demand for agricultural products. The study is the first to provide insight into the amount of cropland that would be required to fulfil present crop demands at high land use efficiency without exacerbating major agricultural impacts globally. MORE