How does agriculture affect global land use and land cover


Agriculture is a major use of land. Half of the world’s habitable land is used for agriculture. The extensive land use has a major impact on the earth’s environment as it reduces wilderness and threatens biodiversity.


Why is agriculture a major use of land?

Agriculture is a major use of land. Half of the world’s habitable land is used for agriculture. The extensive land use has a major impact on the earth’s environment as it reduces wilderness and threatens biodiversity.

What are the factors that affect land use and land cover?

Identifying, quantifying, and comparing estimates of land use and land cover are further complicated by factors such as consistency and the correct application of terminology and definitions, time, scale, data sources, and methods.

What is the impact of agricultural landscape change?

Land‐cover changes cause the disappearance of traditional agricultural landscape and are responsible for vegetation modifications which have an impact on regional climate, carbon sequestration, and biodiversity losses. Agriculture also has impact on the natural systems and ecosystem services on which humans depend.

How do agricultural policies affect land-use decisions?

Agricultural and conservation policies also influence land-use decisions. Land retirement programs directly affect land use, while other agricultural policies may change the economic incentives to cultivate crops.


What are the effects of the changes in land use and land cover?

Land use and land cover changes have significant environmental consequences at local, regional, and global scales. These changes have intense implications at the regional and global scales for global loss of biodiversity, distresses in hydrological cycles, increase in soil erosion, and sediment loads [1].

What is the effect of global on agriculture?

Globalization can greatly enhance the role of agriculture as an engine of growth in low-income countries by making it possible for agriculture to grow considerably faster than domestic consumption.

Is agriculture land use or land cover?

Land cover data documents how much of a region is covered by forests, wetlands, impervious surfaces, agriculture, and other land and water types. Water types include wetlands or open water. Land use shows how people use the landscape – whether for development, conservation, or mixed uses.

What are the factors affecting the use of land in agriculture?

Factors Affecting Land Availability and Uses Land tenure system. Population pressure. The size of useful land in the country. Climatic factors.

How much does agriculture contribute to the global economy?

Agriculture is also crucial to economic growth: in 2018, it accounted for 4% of global gross domestic product (GDP) and in some least developing countries, it can account for more than 25% of GDP.

How does agriculture and farming affect global warming?

Dominant sources of agricultural greenhouse gases (GHGs) include carbon dioxide (CO2) from tropical deforestation, methane (CH4) from livestock and rice production, and nitrous oxide (N2O) from fertilizing or burning croplands. Agriculture is responsible for about half of global methane emissions.

Why is agriculture important in rural land use?

Agriculture is said to be the main source of income for the farmers or people living in the rural areas. Farming and many other activities contribute to the rural regions in respect to the infrastructure, business opportunity and quality of the environment.

What is land use and cover?

Land cover describes the natural and anthropogenic features that can be observed on the Earth’s surface. Examples include deciduous forests, wetlands, developed/built areas, grasslands, water, etc. Land use, by contrast, describes activities that take place on the land and represent the current use of property.

Why land use and land cover is important?

Land cover/use change information is a very important and useful source for planners in land use studies. Moreover, determination of land use potential by considering capability of the land and other characteristics provides an important data source for regional planning studies.

What are the factors affecting the use of land?

The use of land is determined both by physical factors such as topography, climate, soil types as well as human factors such as population density, technological capability and culture and traditions etc.

What is importance of agriculture?

Agriculture provides most of the world’s food and fabrics. Cotton, wool, and leather are all agricultural products. Agriculture also provides wood for construction and paper products. These products, as well as the agricultural methods used, may vary from one part of the world to another.

Why is agriculture an important occupation throughout the world?

As long as humans are alive on the earth,agriculture is important occupation throughout the world. Agriculture provides basic raw food which will be processed by food processing industries and converts it into packaged food and flood into markets. Everything you eat includes the produce of agriculture.


Human expansion throughout the world caused that agriculture is a dominant form of land management globally. Human influence on the land is accelerating because of rapid population growth and increasing food requirements.

1. Introduction

Land cover and land‐use patterns on Earth reflect the interaction of human activities and the natural environment [ 1 ]. Human population growth together with competitive land use causes land scarcity, conversion of wild lands to agriculture and other uses.

3. Results and discussion

With the growing world population the requirements are grown to cover the food demand. Human expansion throughout the world caused that agriculture is a dominant form of land management globally, and agricultural ecosystems cover nearly 40% of the terrestrial surface of the Earth.

4. Conclusion

Agriculture is a dominant form of land management globally. Rapid population growth as primary driving force connected with increasing food requirements generate great pressure on future land use, environment, natural resources, and ecosystem services.


This work was supported by the Slovak Research and Development Agency under Grant No. APVV‐0098‐12 Analysis, modeling and evaluation of agro‐ecosystem services. The research of abiotic soil parameters was done by the equipment supported by Operational Programme Research and Development via contract No.

Land use in agriculture by the numbers

The source article for this piece can be found on the FAO Statistics Division website.

Global trends

Globally agricultural land area is approximately five billion hectares, or 38 percent of the global land surface. About one-third of this is used as cropland, while the remaining two-thirds consist of meadows and pastures) for grazing livestock.

Regional trends

Regional distribution of agricultural land use is a combination of local agri-climatic edaphic – soil –conditions, and socio-economic drivers.

Country trends

On average over the last decade, China was the country with the largest agricultural land extent (about 500 million hectares or Mha), followed by the United States, Australia (about 400 Mha each) and Brazil (278 Mha).

What percentage of cropland was erodible in 1997?

While 25 percent of all cultivated cropland was classified as highly erodible in 1997, an estimated 33 percent of acreage added to cultivation during the period after the increased insurance subsidies was highly erodible land.

How does crop insurance affect nutrient loss?

Crop insurance subsidies are also estimated to increase cultivation in areas subject to high levels of nutrient loss. While nutrient loss estimates take into account land erodibility, they may not accurately reflect differences in fertilizer applications on less productive lands.

Why is CRP less intense?

In contrast, cropland enrolled in CRP tends to have below-average levels of potential nitrogen and phosphorus losses, possibly because the program tends to attract lands from arid regions where factors driving nutrient loss—rainfall runoff and rainfall-based soil erosion— are less intense.

What is conservation reserve?

The Conservation Reserve Program is a land retirement program that offers payments to farmers to reduce cropland acreage for environmental gains. The program has been an important driver of changes in cropland since 1985.

Why are marginal lands more environmentally sensitive than highly productive land?

Because marginal lands are also more environmentally sensitive than highly productive land along several dimensions, cropland shifts have environmental, as well as economic, effects. Thus, agricultural and conservation programs that affect land use likely have greater effects on erosion and some other environmental factors than on production.

What is crop insurance?

The Federal Crop Insurance Program raises incentives to grow crops. A longstanding concern is that the program may maintain or increase crop cultivation in frequently flooded and other risky areas containing wetlands and other environmentally sensitive lands.

Why were premium subsidies increased?

The premium subsidies were increased significantly to encourage more producers to participate. Further subsidy increases were enacted by Congress in 1999-2000. Crop insurance participation increased with the growth in subsidies.

How has technological innovation influenced land use change?

Technological innovation has also influenced land-use change, with the expansion of cultivated lands from the development of irrigation technologies and, more recently, decreases in demand for agricultural land due to increases in crop productivity.

What are representative concentration pathways?

Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) were developed to improve society’s understanding of plausible climate and socioeconomic futures. 75 U.S. projections of land-use and land-cover change (LULCC) developed for the RCPs span a wide range of future climate conditions, including a higher scenario (RCP8.5) 76 and three mitigation scenarios (RCP2.6, RCP4.5, and RCP6.0) (for more on RCPs, see Front Matter and the Scenario Products section in App. 3). 77, 78, 79 Projected changes in land use within each scenario were harmonized with historical data 80 and include a broad range of assumptions, from aggressive afforestation (the establishment of a forest where there was no previous tree cover) in the Midwest and Southeast (RCP4.5) to large-scale expansion of agricultural lands to meet biofuel production levels (RCP2.6; see Hibbard et al. 2017 81 ).

What is the National Strategy 74?

An important component of the national strategy 74 is a classification of U.S. counties based on their geographic context; fire history; amount of urban, forest, and range land; and other factors. The land-use, land-cover, and other components of the classification model are used to guide management actions.

How did the authors develop the chapter?

Chapter authors developed the chapter through technical discussions, literature review, and expert deliberation via email and phone discussions. The authors considered feedback from the general public, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and federal agencies. For additional information about the overall process for developing the report, see Appendix 1: Process.

What are some examples of changes in land cover?

For example, demand for new settlements often results in the permanent loss of natural and working lands, which can result in localized changes in weather patterns, temperature, and precipitation.

How does land cover affect climate?

Changes in land cover continue to impact local- to global-scale weather and climate by altering the flow of energy, water, and greenhouse gases between the land and the atmosphere. Reforestation can foster localized cooling, while in urban areas, continued warming is expected to exacerbate urban heat island effects.

What is Chapter 5 of the book?

Chapter 5: Land Cover and Land-Use Change. Executive Summary. Climate can affect and be affected by changes in land cover (the physical features that cover the land such as trees or pavement) and land use (human management and activities on land, such as mining or recreation).

What percentage of land is used for agriculture?

Half of all habitable land is used for agriculture. 2. This leaves only 37% for forests; 11% as shrubs and grasslands; 1% as freshwater coverage; and the remaining 1% – a much smaller share than many suspect – is built-up urban area which includes cities, towns, villages, roads and other human infrastructure.

How much of the world’s ice free land is used for farming?

If we rewind 1000 years, it is estimated that only 4 million square kilometers – less than 4% of the world’s ice-free and non-barren land area was used for farming. In the visualization we see the breakdown …

How much of the world’s land is livestock?

If we combine pastures used for grazing with land used to grow crops for animal feed, livestock accounts for 77% of global farming land. While livestock takes up most of the world’s agricultural land it only produces 18% …

What percentage of the world’s agricultural area is permanent?

The agricultural area use is divided into 3 categories: arable land (28% of the global agricultural area), permanent crops (3%) and permanent meadows and pastures (69%) which account for the largest share of the world’s agricultural area. 6.

What is pastureland used for?

Pastureland (permanent meadows and pasture) For most countries, the majority of agricultural land is used for livestock rearing in the form of pastureland. In the map here we see the share of permanent meadows and pasture as a percentage of total land area.

What are the two main uses of agricultural land?

There are two main uses of agricultural land: arable farming (which is land dedicated to growing crops), and pastureland ( which includes meadows and pastures used for livestock rearing). In the chart here we see a global map of land used for arable agriculture (as a share of total land area).

How much of the world’s land is livestock?

If we combine pastures used for grazing with land used to grow crops for animal feed, livestock accounts for 77% of global farming land.

What percentage of land is used for agriculture?

Half of all habitable land is used for agriculture. 2. This leaves only 37% for forests; 11% as shrubs and grasslands; 1% as freshwater coverage; and the remaining 1% – a much smaller share than many suspect – is built-up urban area which includes cities, towns, villages, roads and other human infrastructure.

What is the use of land?

But we are also studying other uses of land, including land required for human settlement. Agriculture is a major use of land. Half of the world’s habitable land is used for agriculture . The extensive land use has a major impact on the earth’s environment as it reduces wilderness and threatens biodiversity.

Is land used for agriculture increasing?

The share of land used for agriculture has been slowly increasing across most of the world’s regions over the past few decades. However, land use across Europe and Central Asia- particularly within the European Union (EU) zone- and North America has been declining. Click to open interactive version.

How have humans altered the Earth’s ecosystems?

In preindustrial times, the expansion of agriculture was probably the dominant process by which humankind altered the Earth system, but little is known about its extent, timing, and spatial pattern. This study presents an approach to reconstruct spatially explicit changes in global agricultural areas (cropland and pasture) and the resulting changes in land cover over the last millennium. The reconstruction is based on published maps of agricultural areas for the last three centuries. For earlier times, a country-based method is developed that uses population data as a proxy for agricultural activity. With this approach, the extent of cropland and pasture is consistently estimated since AD 800. The resulting reconstruction of agricultural areas is combined with a map of potential vegetation to estimate the resulting historical changes in land cover. Uncertainties associated with this approach, in particular owing to technological progress in agriculture and uncertainties in population estimates, are quantified. About 5 million km 2 of natural vegetation are found to be transformed to agriculture between AD 800 and 1700, slightly more to cropland (mainly at the expense of forested area) than to pasture (mainly at the expense of natural grasslands). Historical events such as the Black Death in Europe led to considerable dynamics in land cover change on a regional scale. The reconstruction can be used with global climate and ecosystem models to assess the impact of human activities on the Earth system in preindustrial times.

How does remote sensing help us?

[10] Statistical databases built by international organizations and, more recently, remote sensing provide us with data and methods to consistently measure agricultural areas and land cover change of the last decades. Great efforts have been undertaken to extend this data back into the past; most notable with respect to its global coverage is the work by Houghton [1999], who compiled a multitude of regional studies related to historical land cover, and the data compilation by Richards [1990], which are basis also of the SAGE and HYDE studies. However, sources which address more than the local level become scarce when going back in time and rarely go beyond AD 1650. Thus, we search for a proxy for agricultural area for which historical data is more readily available on global scale.

What period was land cover reconstruction?

Auxiliary material for this article contains the data used for the assessment of uncertainty and validity of the millennium land cover reconstruction for the time period AD 800 to 1700, viz. (1) different estimates of population and (2) changes in per-capita agricultural areas.

When did land cover change?

Fast rates of land cover transformation were returned to in the 15th century, but agricultural expansion stagnated again in the early 17th century in Europe as a whole as a consequence of several regional processes, including the Thirty Years War and economic crises in the Mediterranean countries.

Can reconstruction of agricultural areas be overlaid over maps of natural vegetation?

For this purpose, the reconstruction of agricultural areas can be overlaid over maps of natural vegetation. Data source and vegetation types can be freely chosen according to the application, but an allocation scheme of agriculture on natural vegetation has to be developed.

What is morphological table?

The morphological table reports the alternative change assumptions for each driver through 2050. These are qualitative assumptions. For each driver, we developed translation matrices providing general rules for translating each qualitative assumption to 2050 into quantitative model inputs. These translation matrices are provided in S2 File. In order to illustrate our approach, and as background information for a better understanding of simulation results, we provide in Table 1 the resulting quantitative model inputs for each driver under alternative change assumptions to 2050, in world average (model inputs are different from one region to another) and for selected agri-food products. Scenarios involve contrasting sets of model’s inputs and the resulting range of scenarios’ simulations shows how the model responds to widely different inputs.

What is urban food consumption?

Urban food consumption is generally characterized by increased reliance on food services such as restaurants, street foods, snack products, ready-to-eat meals and soft drinks, and a reduced incidence of meals at home. Third, increased consumption of ultra-processed foods is linked to changes in food supply chains.

What are the two scenarios that are not able to ensure world food and nutrition security in 2050?

Two scenarios are clearly not able to ensure world food and nutrition security in 2050: the ‘Metropolization’ and the ‘Communities’ scenarios , notably under the Collapse variant. Furthermore, two have ambiguous results: the ‘Regionalization’ and ‘Households’ scenarios.

What will happen in 2050?

By 2050, simultaneous financial, energy, ecological and geopolitical crises have shaped a world situation that is fragmented not only politically, but also economically. Unemployment increased thereby impeding metropolitan growth, generating an urban de-concentration. Reduced migration to metropolitan areas led to the growth of smaller towns and fragmented urban development, and to an increase of rural populations in some world regions (South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa). By 2050, food supply chains in urban areas rely on formal and informal markets for staple foods and on networks between urban communities and rural ones. Urban and peri-urban agriculture provides incomes and food for poorer urban households.

What are the issues that are affecting the economic and political development of the region in 2050?

By 2050, political and economic governance in supranational regional blocs arose as a way to address a series of issues such as financial crises, unemployment, pollution and high rates of non-communicable diet-related diseases. Within these blocs, States are managing energy transition and improving food diversity. They seek greater energy autonomy by increasing the production of renewable energy and by using regionally available fossil fuel resources. Regions applied the concept of ‘food sovereignty and subsidiarity’, wherein as much food as possible is produced within the region and the remaining share is imported. Medium-size cities and small towns became part of regional development, playing a significant role as intermediates between rural areas and larger cities.

What is the Agrimonde Terra methodology?

Agrimonde-Terra’s foresight work used an exploratory methodology in order to deal with the uncertainties and complexities associated with global and inter-linked issues as well as non-linear changes in the land use and food security system. The scenario building approach of Agrimonde-Terra envisages what can or might happen, without reducing a priori the complexity of the system, neither in its structural dimensions nor in its temporal dynamics [ 30 – 31 ]. In contrast to most existing sets of global scenarios, Agrimonde-Terra’s scenarios were not developed along two axes that characterize the major and most uncertain driving forces or outcomes regarding the future of the system concerned. For example, the MEA scenarios were developed along two main driving forces: global governance for international cooperation and trade (globalized vs. regionalized), and attitudes towards ecosystem management (pro-active vs. reactive); the SSP scenarios were developed along two main outcomes: challenges for climate change mitigation, and challenges for climate change adaptation. According to some authors, the 2 × 2 scenario method can have “a restrictive scope and an overemphasis on some factors over others” [ 32 – 33 ]. Instead, we used a morphological analysis that provides a multidimensional systemic representation [ 29, 34 ].

Why does the Community not fit with the Regional Competition/Regional Markets family of scenarios?

However, ‘Communities’ does not fit with the ‘Regional competition/Regional markets’ family of scenarios because it envisages, in addition to financial, economic and geopolitical crises, a climate and ecological crisis leading to a downward spiral that could lead to the collapse of agricultural production systems.


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