Neglected Dimensions of Global Land-Use Change: Reflections and Data

Heilig, G.K. (1993). Neglected Dimensions of Global Land-Use Change: Reflections and Data. IIASA Working Paper. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: WP-93-073

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The main objective of the paper is to question the conventional approach in studying land-use changes, which is focused on agriculture-related alterations driven by population growth. It will show that there are numerous other types of land cover modification, such as those caused by certain lifestyles, man-made catastrophes, wars, urban infrastructure expansion, industrial production, or fossil resource exploration and transportation. The paper argues that we can only understand the underlying causes of global land-use change if we widen our conceptual focus. We have to abandon the oversimplified model of a linear relationship between "population growth, increase of food demand, agricultural expansion and intensification, leading to deforestation and land-cover modification."

While the expansion and intensification of agriculture and livestock production certainly affects large surface areas of our globe, it is only one of several derivative processes. They are just the most visible outcome of more fundamental, but less obvious, social, economic and technological changes. Some of these originate from currently rather unexplored domains, such as changes in communication and transportation technology, international trade regulations, or political and military strategies.

Even where we find agricultural expansion and land-use change it is very often not caused by growing food demand (as people often assume), but by changes in lifestyles and food preferences. The paper will present FAO data which indicate that more than 22 percent of the arable land worldwide is cultivated for lifestyle-related products, such as drugs, tobacco, sugar beet, sugar cane, coffee, cocoa and tea. Obviously, none of these agricultural products (for which we spend huge areas of arable land) is needed for providing basic subsistence to a growing population.

The paper begins with a brainstorming exercise that collects "everyday knowledge" about different forms of land use. Then it presents a conceptual framework which brings together various -- seemingly unrelated -- processes and driving forces of land-use change. This is followed by an examination of land-use data on some 150 countries for the period from 1961 to 1990, focusing on possible interaction between population and land use. The paper finally reviews some historical trends which show that changes in land-use patterns are frequently linked to changes in lifestyles.

Item Type: Monograph (IIASA Working Paper)
Research Programs: World Population (POP)
Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 02:02
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:14

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