Nat. Eco. Evol. (2019).

Land use by agriculture and forestry has direct ramifications for biodiversity and carbon storage. Population growth and socioeconomic development are fuelling growth in the demand for land-derived products. If we are to move away from destructive land-use practices, we need to understand the complex patterns of trade that link global production and consumption.

Alexandra Marques from Leiden University, The Netherlands, and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research, and co-authors use a combination of biophysical and economic models to analyse the global impacts of agricultural and forestry activities on avian diversity and carbon sequestration, taking account of international trade.

They find that, from 2000 to 2011, population and economic growth drove increasing land-use impacts on bird diversity and carbon sequestration globally, despite a reduction in impact per unit of economic growth (GDP). Rearing cattle was the greatest driver of biodiversity loss, with oil-seed production impacts growing the fastest. Forestry had the largest impact on carbon sequestration, and also showed the greatest increase. Between a third and a quarter of biodiversity impacts in Central and Southern America and Africa were driven by consumption in other parts of the world. These findings suggest that sustainable land-use and preservation of carbon stocks requires recognition of trade-driven remote responsibility for environmental impacts.