Journal Article

Addressing future trade-offs between biodiversity and cropland expansion to improve food security

Regional Environmental Change, 5 (17): 1429-1441

Potential trade-offs between providing sufficient food for a growing human population in the future and sustaining ecosystems and their services are driven by various biophysical and socio-economic parameters at different scales. In this study, we investigate these trade-offs by using a three-step interdisciplinary approach. We examine (i) how the expected global cropland expansion might affect food security in terms of agricultural production and prices, (ii) where natural conditions are suitable for cropland expansion under changing climate conditions, and (iii) whether this potential conversion to cropland would affect areas of high biodiversity value or conservation importance. Our results show that on one hand, allowing the expansion of cropland generally results in an improved food security not only in regions where crop production rises, but also in net importing countries such as India and China. On the other hand, the estimated cropland expansion could take place in many highly biodiverse regions pointing out the need for spatially detailed and context-specific assessments to understand the possible outcomes of different food security strategies. Our multidisciplinary approach is relevant with respect to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for implementing and enforcing sustainable pathways for increasing agricultural production, and ensuring food security while conserving biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Authors

Florian Zabel
Carsten Meyer
Tomáš Václavík