Increasing impacts of land use on biodiversity and carbon sequestration driven by population and economic growth

Alexandra Marques, Ines Martins, Thomas Kastner, Christoph Plutzar, Michaela Theurl, Nina Eisenmenger, Mark Huijbregts, Richard Wood, Konstantin Stadler, Martin Bruckner, Joana Canelas, Jelle Hilbers, Arnold Tukker, Karlheinz Erb, Henrique Pereira

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review

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Biodiversity and ecosystem service losses driven by land-use change are expected to intensify as a growing and more affluent global population requires more agricultural and forestry products, and teleconnections in the global economy lead to increasing remote environmental responsibility. By combining global biophysical and economic models, we show that, between the years 2000 and 2011, overall population and economic growth resulted in increasing total impacts on bird diversity and carbon sequestration globally, despite a reduction of land-use impacts per unit of gross domestic product (GDP). The exceptions were North America and Western Europe, where there was a reduction of forestry and agriculture impacts on nature accentuated by the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Biodiversity losses occurred predominantly in Central and Southern America, Africa and Asia with international trade an important and growing driver. In 2011, 33% of Central and Southern America and 26% of Africa's biodiversity impacts were driven by consumption in other world regions. Overall, cattle farming is the major driver of biodiversity loss, but oil seed production showed the largest increases in biodiversity impacts. Forestry activities exerted the highest impact on carbon sequestration, and also showed the largest increase in the 2000-2011 period. Our results suggest that to address the biodiversity crisis, governments should take an equitable approach recognizing remote responsibility, and promote a shift of economic development towards activities with low biodiversity impacts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)628 - 637
JournalNature Ecology & Evolution
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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