Analyzing Trade-Offs under Land Degradation

Vlek, Paul LG, Asia Khamzina, Hossein Azadi, Anik Bhaduri, Luna Bharati, Ademola Braimoh, Christopher Martius, Terry Sunderland, and Fatemeh Taheri. "Trade-Offs in Multi-Purpose Land Use under Land Degradation." Sustainability 9, no. 12 (2017): 2196.

Our colleagues at CIAT (Paul L. G. Vlek), IWMI (Luna Bharati), and CIFOR (Christopher Martius) participated an international team of geospatial researchers to study the potential trade-offs in multi-purpose land use under land degradation, published at the Sustainability journal.

Abstract of the study says:

Land provides a host of ecosystem services, of which the provisioning services are often considered paramount. As the demand for agricultural products multiplies, other ecosystem services are being degraded or lost entirely. Finding a sustainable trade-off between food production and one or more of other ecosystem services, given the variety of stakeholders, is a matter of optimizing land use in a dynamic and complex socio-ecological system. Land degradation reduces our options to meet both food demands and environmental needs. In order to illustrate this trade-off dilemma, four representative services, carbon sinks, water storage, biodiversity, and space for urbanization, are discussed here based on a review of contemporary literature that cuts across the domain of ecosystem services that are provided by land. Agricultural research will have to expand its focus from the field to the landscape level and in the process examine the cost of production that internalizes environmental costs. In some situations, the public cost of agriculture in marginal environments outweighs the private gains, even with the best technologies in place. Land use and city planners will increasingly have to address the cost of occupying productive agricultural land or the conversion of natural habitats. Landscape designs and urban planning should aim for the preservation of agricultural land and the integrated management of land resources by closing water and nutrient cycles, and by restoring biodiversity.

The study found that the carbon loss from converting natural ecosystems to croplands is, on average, higher in the tropics (~120 t C ha−1) than in temperate regions (~63 t C ha−1), and the trade-off analysis showed carbon loss per ton of crop yield in the tropics is about three times higher than in temperate regions. Authors concluded that the positive effects of climate-smart agriculture and conservation agriculture are limited if they are not brought to scale and tied in with a sustainable landscape effort.

Full text of the article is available at the journal website at (Open Access).