Global impacts of future cropland expansion and intensification on agricultural markets and biodiversity

Nature Communications, 10/2844

With rising demand for biomass, cropland expansion and intensification represent the main strategies to boost agricultural production, but are also major drivers of biodiversity decline. We investigate the consequences of attaining equal global production gains by 2030, either by cropland expansion or intensification, and analyse their impacts on agricultural markets and biodiversity. We find that both scenarios lead to lower crop prices across the world, even in regions where production decreases. Cropland expansion mostly affects biodiversity hotspots in Central and South America, while cropland intensification threatens biodiversity especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, India and China. Our results suggest that production gains will occur at the costs of biodiversity predominantly in developing tropical regions, while Europe and North America benefit from lower world market prices without putting their own biodiversity at risk. By identifying hotspots of potential future conflicts, we demonstrate where conservation prioritization is needed to balance agricultural production with conservation goals.

Authors

Florian Zabel
Julia M. Schneider
Ralf Seppelt
Wolfram Mauser
Tomas Váklavík