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Agricultural conversion without external water and nutrient inputs reduces terrestrial vegetation productivity

Geophysical Research Letters

By:
, , , and
DOI: 10.1002/2013GL058857

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Abstract

Driven by global population and standard of living increases, humanity co-opts a growing share of the planet's natural resources resulting in many well-known environmental trade-offs. In this study, we explored the impact of agriculture on a resource fundamental to life on Earth: terrestrial vegetation growth (net primary production; NPP). We demonstrate that agricultural conversion has reduced terrestrial NPP by ~7.0%. Increases in NPP due to agricultural conversion were observed only in areas receiving external inputs (i.e., irrigation and/or fertilization). NPP reductions were found for ~88% of agricultural lands, with the largest reductions observed in areas formerly occupied by tropical forests and savannas (~71% and ~66% reductions, respectively). Without policies that explicitly consider the impact of agricultural conversion on primary production, future demand-driven increases in agricultural output will likely continue to drive net declines in global terrestrial productivity, with potential detrimental consequences for net ecosystem carbon storage and subsequent climate warming.

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Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Agricultural conversion without external water and nutrient inputs reduces terrestrial vegetation productivity
Series title:
Geophysical Research Letters
DOI:
10.1002/2013GL058857
Volume
41
Issue:
2
Year Published:
2014
Language:
English
Publisher:
American Geophysical Union
Contributing office(s):
Southwest Biological Science Center
Description:
7 p.
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
Geophysical Research Letters
First page:
449
Last page:
455
Number of Pages:
7