Abstract

This chapter presents recent trends and future prospects for global land resources, with a focus on agriculture and forestry. A review of agricultural and forest land resources reveals that while plenty of suitable cultivable land remains, utilizing this land will result in the loss of valuable forest land. Overall, the current pace of deforestation is putting pressure on forests in Africa and South America, although Indonesia has the greatest percentage of forest loss. While the growth of food production has kept up with population growth, malnutrition prevails, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. Future increases in food production will surely occur through intensification on existing agricultural land, rather than through expanding cultivated area. There is potential for increasing crop yields, even at current levels of technology, by exploiting the yield gaps in many countries of the world. This outlook is less promising when the environmental consequences of agricultural intensification are considered. A review of wood removal rates compared to existing growing stocks in forests reveals insufficient recovery time for renewal of forests, especially in Africa. When only commercial forests are taken into account, assuming that we need to set aside noncommercial forests to fulfill other ecosystem services, the situation looks even more dire. Ultimately, an assessment is needed of the competing demands for food, timber, and other ecosystem services (e.g., carbon sequestration and biodiversity).

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