What is novel about this research is the fact that the scientists analyzed significantly more data and indicators than what is common in similar studies. In contrast to traditional models of land use, over 30 factors with more than one million data points were processed. "For example, we didn't know before which regions had an unfulfilled potential for agricultural intensification given the environmental and socio-economic conditions, or in which regions the maximum agricultural yields were already achieved", says Tom Vclavk, a scientist and leading author from UFZ. The information that was usually hidden behind the complexity of data is now revealed. "If we had analysed only the environmental indicators, we could not identify where viable opportunities for yield improvements exist".
This new analysis also shows a different picture of land use than scientists had before. China, for example, belongs to five different archetypes. "It was surprising to see that the intensity and type of land use in some regions of China was quite similar to the situation in Western Europe or the United States. Thus, parts of China, together with particular regions of India and, of course, large areas of Europe, were assigned to the 'intensive cropping systems' archetype", says Tom Vclavk.
According to the co-author and the head of the Department of Computational Landscape Ecology at UFZ Leipzig, Prof. Ralf Seppelt, this representation of land systems is useful also because we can now provide science-based policy recommendations for regions in certain land-use types on how to avoid negative consequences of land use.
This can be easily explained with examples from Latin America and Southeast Asia: many areas in these regions are classified as 'degraded forest/cropland systems in the tropics' characterized by extremely high soil erosion. Because the socio-economic data show that agriculture plays an important role in the national economy of th
|Contact: Tilo Arnhold|
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ