Tuesday, September 23, 2014

More land, fewer harvests

A press release from Ludwig Maximilian University (Munich): According to a simulation of the impact of climate change on agricultural production over the course of the 21st century, carried out by researchers led by Professor Wolfram Mauser at LMU’s Department of Geography, some two-thirds of all land potentially suitable for agricultural use is already under cultivation. The study indicates that climate change will expand the supply of cropland in the high latitudes of the Northern hemisphere (Canada, Russia, China) over the next 100 years. However, in the absence of adaptation measures such as increased irrigation, the simulation projects a significant loss of suitable agricultural land in Mediterranean regions and in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. The results of the study appear in the online journal PLOS ONE.

Ecological factors such as climate, soil quality, water supply and topography determine the suitability of land for agriculture. In the new study the LMU team focused on the probable impact of climate change on the supply of land suitable for the cultivation of the 16 major food and energy crops worldwide, including staples such as maize, rice, soybeans and wheat. “Based on the environmental requirements for growth of these plants, in terms of climate, soil and terrain, one can determine whether or not a given location on Earth provides conditions required by specific crops,” says Dr. Florian Zabel, one of the authors of the new study.

...“In the context of current projections, which predict that the demand for food will double by the year 2050 as the result of population increase, our results are quite alarming. In addition, one must consider the prospect of increased pressure on land resources for the cultivation of forage crops and animal feed owing to rising demand for meat, and the expansion of land use for the production of bioenergy,” says Zabel….

This map summarizes the projected impact of climate change on the worldwide distribution of land suitable for agriculture in the year 2100. While new cropland is predicted to become available in the Northern hemisphere(green), conditions are expected to deteriorate in other areas, including the Mediterranean region (brown). (Source: Dr. Florian Zabel, LMU)

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