Carbon Storage and Land-Use Strategies in Agricultural Landscapes across Three Continents.
Current biology : CB
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Williams, D. R., Phalan, B., Feniuk, C., Green, R., & Balmford, A. (2018). Carbon Storage and Land-Use Strategies in Agricultural Landscapes across Three Continents.. Current biology : CB, 28 (15), 2500-2505.e4. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2018.05.087
The loss of carbon stocks through agricultural land-use change is a key driver of greenhouse gas emissions [1–4] and the methods used to manage agricultural land will have major impacts on the global climate in the 21st century [4–9]. It remains unresolved whether carbon losses would be minimised by increasing farm yields and limiting conversion natural habitats (‘land sparing’) or maximising on-farm carbon stock even at the cost of reduced yields and therefore greater habitat clearance (‘land sharing’). In this paper, we use field surveys of over 11,000 trees, in-depth interviews with farmers, and existing agricultural data, to evaluate the potential impacts of these contrasting approaches, and plausible intermediate strategies, on above-ground carbon stocks across a diverse range of agricultural and natural systems. Our analyses include agroforestry and oil palm plantations in the humid tropics of Ghana; cattle ranching in dry tropical forest in Mexico; and arable cropping in temperate wetlands and forests in Poland. Strikingly, despite the range of systems investigated, land sparing consistently had a higher potential to sustain regional above-ground carbon stocks than any other strategy. This was the case in all three regions, and at all plausible levels of food production, including falls in demand. However, if agricultural production increases to meet likely future demand levels, we project large decreases in above-ground carbon stocks, regardless of land-use strategy. Our results strongly suggest that maintaining aboveground carbon stocks will depend on both limiting future food demand and minimising agricultural expansion through linking high-yield farming with conserving or restoring natural habitats.
Conservation of Natural Resources, Agriculture, Ghana, Mexico, Poland, Carbon Sequestration
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2018.05.087
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/280544
Attribution 4.0 International
Licence URL: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/