Farmland: Not so diverse

Anyone looking for a measure of biodiversity loss should consider the expansion of farmland. More land was converted to agriculture in the 30 years following 1950 than during the 150-year period between 1700 and 1850.

That means more land converted away from biodiversity-rich natural conditions, such as grasslands and forests, putting enormous pressure on ecosystems. For OECD experts, this is one of the main sources of biodiversity loss, and gets a “red light” for urgent action in the 2008 OECD Environmental Outlook’s traffic light classification (see Economics article).

Click here for larger graph.

These changes are usually associated with increasing populations and markets. As well as providing food, timber and fibre, farming is now a growing source of biofuels. World agricultural land use will have to expand by about another 10% to 2030 to meet all crop and livestock demands together. This is a tall order, particularly in western Europe and Japan where densely populated regions are already encroaching on nature and rural areas in general.

From an already low starting point of 48% of the total area in the form of natural land, this biodiversity measure in OECD Europe is projected to sink to 40% in 2030, led by an expansion of agricultural land in eastern and central Europe. There will be further pressure on biodiversity in North America, Australia and New Zealand. Large increases in crop lands are also expected in Russia and Asia, as well as Africa. Rory J. Clarke

Environmental Outlook to 2030 is available at, ISBN 9789264040489.


©OECD Observer No 266 March 2008

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