Land-use change has affected ‘almost a third’ of world’s terrain since 1960

le 11/05/2021

Current estimates of land-use change may be capturing only one-quarter of its true extent across the world, new research shows.

The paper, published in Nature Communications, revises previous estimates of how much humans change the Earth’s land surface – such as via the destruction of tropical rainforests. It finds that, when accounting for multiple instances of change in the same place, 720,000 square kilometres of land surface has changed annually since 1960 – an area, the authors note, “about twice the size of Germany”.

These new estimates are a synthesis of high-resolution satellite imagery and long-term inventories of land use. Combining these two types of data sources, the authors write, allows them to examine land-use change in “unprecedented” detail.

Despite steadily increasing rates of land-use change over the latter half of the 20th century, the global rate has been decelerating since 2005. The authors attribute this slowdown to the 2007-08 financial crisis, which they hypothesise caused economic shifts in the global north that reverberated around the world.

Source : Carbon Brief via GLTN.

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