Research Highlights | Published:


Feed the world and keep the trees

Nature volume 532, page 416 (28 April 2016) | Download Citation

A worldwide switch to vegetarian diets could allow the planet's estimated 2050 population of 9.7 billion to feed themselves without cutting down any more forests.

Karl-Heinz Erb and his colleagues at the University of Klagenfurt in Vienna created a model of the global agricultural system that forecasts the next 34 years, based on predictions of crop output per hectare, cropland expansion, efficiency of raising livestock, changes in the human diet and other variables. The team reports that given greatly increased crop yields and grazing intensity, global diets could stay much as they are without deforestation. A switch to a vegan or vegetarian diet could, however, allow sufficient expansion of even organically grown crops into former grazing land, without the need to boost yields.

Increased trade between areas of high production and high food demand will be needed to make any of these scenarios feasible.

About this article

Publication history





    By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

    Newsletter Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing