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Our Common Cropland: Quantifying Global Agricultural Land Use from a Consumption Perspective

Tramberend, Sylvia, Fischer, Günther, Bruckner, Martin, van Velthuizen, Harrij
Ecological economics 2019 v.157 pp. 332-341
biomass, consumption (economics), cropland, databases, diet, exports, grasslands, issues and policy, land use, livestock products, models, ruminants, supply chain, sustainable land management, uncertainty, world markets
Understanding teleconnections of regional consumption patterns and global land use supports policy making towards achieving sustainable land use. We present an innovative globally consistent hybrid land-flow accounting method to track biomass flows and embodied land along global supply chains. It uses the large FAOSTAT database, which is, for non-food commodities, complemented with a multi-regional input-output model. We employ the hybrid model globally between 1995 and 2010 and present results for 21 regional markets. Results highlight the growing integration in international markets. In 2010, 31% of cropland cultivation was for export markets compared to 16% in 1995. The higher land demand of livestock-based diets, which account for one third of global cropland use, and differences in land use intensities cause large regional variations in extents and composition of land footprints. The utilization of cropland changed towards a growing importance of the non-food sector accounting for 12% in 2010. Comparing land quality weighted cropland footprints across regions further reveals large differences in the appropriation of available global cropland productivity. Because of large uncertainties and quality differences in the actual use of grassland for feeding ruminants, we propose land quality weighted grassland footprints to discuss the additional land use for ruminant livestock products.