Carbon emissions from the global land rush and potential mitigation


Authors: Chuan Liao, Kerstin Nolte, Jonathan A. Sullivan, Daniel G. Brown, Jann Lay, Christof Althoff and Arun Agrawal

Published: 2021

Source: Nature Food

Large-scale land transactions can promote agricultural intensification, but may be accompanied by negative socioeconomic and environmental consequences. Estimated carbon emissions from converting transacted lands to large-scale farms, for example, can reach up to 2.26 Gt, with the majority emitting from Africa, Southeast Asia, Latin America and Oceania. Global drivers and carbon emissions associated with these large-scale land transactions have been poorly investigated. This article examines major factors behind such transactions (income, agricultural productivity, availability of arable land and water scarcity) and estimate potential carbon emissions under different levels of deforestation. The authors find that clearing lands transacted between 2000 and 2016 (36.7 Mha) could have emitted ~2.26 GtC, but constraining land clearing to historical deforestation rates would reduce emissions related to large-scale land transactions to ~0.81 GtC.

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