Monday, February 13, 2017

Tropical forests were the primary sources of new agricultural land in the 1980s and 1990s

The researchers of this article had a hypothesis that the vast majority of new agricultural land was coming at the expense of disturbed forest and natural tropical forest land. This is land that has not before been cleared and is apart of our growing scarcity of natural forest and wildlife. They used satellite taken pictures to examine and cover map projections of the newly cleared land for agriculture. A map depicting some of the increased clearing for the agriculture can be seen below :

In conclusion of the research they learned that 80% of new land for agriculture was coming from intact and disturbed forest. Combined with the fact that food needs are expected to grow ~50% by 2050, this puts our Earth's natural forestry at risk to be completely cleared to make room for more food to be harvested. Work like this helps shed light on the rising risk of losing some of the Earth's natural ecosystem which we use to survive. I wonder if work like this continues to be done, if it will begin to shed light on a growing problem before it is too late.
Gibbs, H. K., Ruesch, A. S., Achard, F., Clayton, M. K., Holmgren, P., Ramankutty, N., & Foley, J. A. (2010). Tropical forests were the primary sources of new agricultural land in the 1980s and 1990s. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(38), 16732-16737.


  1. Interesting article. I would like to see the same study using the United States, and compare the areas of reforestation.

  2. I agree with Nathan, I would like to see how this study would look compared to the United States and other countries, both landlocked and with a shore.

  3. Another cool thing to do with this would be to look at the development of land for housing in the U.S. Cities are always expanding, but this could show how it is effecting our ability to produce food from that land.