Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.


Feed the world and keep the trees

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.

Nature Commun. 7, 11382 (2016)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Feed the world and keep the trees. Nature 532, 416 (2016).

Download citation


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

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