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Comparing the impact of future cropland expansion on global biodiversity and carbon storage across models and scenarios

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Author(s)

  • Amy Molotoks
  • Roslyn C Henry
  • Elke Stehfest
  • Jonathan Doelman
  • Petr Havlík
  • Tamás Krisztin
  • Peter Alexander
  • Terence P. Dawson
  • Pete Smith

Department/unit(s)

Publication details

JournalPhilosophical Transactions Of The Royal Society Of London Series B - Biological Sciences
DateAccepted/In press - 20 Nov 2019
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Land-use change is a direct driver of biodiversity and carbon storage loss. Projections of future land-use often include notable expansion of cropland areas in response to changes in climate and food demand, although there are large
uncertainties in results between models and scenarios. This study examines these uncertainties by comparing three different socio-economic scenarios (SSP1-3) across three models (IMAGE, GLOBIOM and PLUMv2). It assesses the impacts on biodiversity metrics and direct carbon loss from biomass and soil as a direct consequence of cropland expansion. Results show substantial variation between models and scenarios, with little overlap across all nine projections. Although SSP1 projects the least impact, there are still significant impacts projected. IMAGE and GLOBIOM project the greatest impact across carbon storage and biodiversity metrics due to both extent and location of cropland expansion. Furthermore, for all the biodiversity and carbon metrics used, there is a greater proportion of variance explained by model used. This demonstrates the importance of improving the accuracy of land-based models. Incorporating effects of land-use change in biodiversity impact assessments would also help better prioritise future protection of biodiverse and carbon-rich areas.

Bibliographical note

Acknowledgements
Conservation International, The Alliance for Zero Extinction and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) are acknowledged for provision of data.

Funding statement
This work contributes to the Belmont Forum/FACCE-JPI DEVIL project (NE/M021327/1) and the NERC funded Soils-RGGREAT project (NE/P019455/1). AM is supported by a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
(BBSRC) EastBio Studentship (http://www.eastscotbiodtp.ac.uk/) (grant number BB/M010996/1) and the Global Challenges Research Fund Trade, Development and the Environment Hub project (ES/S008160/1). PA and RH are supported by the UK’s Global Food Security Programme project ‘Resilience of the UK food system to Global Shocks’ (RUGS, BB/N020707/1).

    Research areas

  • land use change, biodiversity, carbon storage, integrated models

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