02 Nov 2010:
Expansion of Cropland is
Stretching Earth’s Ability to Store Carbon
The conversion of the planet’s ecosystems into cropland — particularly in tropical rainforests — is stretching the Earth’s ability to store carbon
, according to a new study. The demand for new agricultural
land is growing most rapidly in the tropics, due to growing populations, changing diets, food security concerns, and a rising demand for biofuels. But not only is the crop yield weakest in those regions, the clear-cutting of tropical forest results in twice as much carbon released into the atmosphere per unit of land as in temperate regions, since the forests act as massive carbon sinks, according to the study published the Proceedings of the National Academies
. “In terms of balancing the needs of food production and slowing carbon dioxide emissions, this is a tough tradeoff,” said Jonathan Foley
, director of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment and co-author of the study, which researchers call the most comprehensive analysis on the tradeoff between carbon storage and crop production. Researchers suggest a better alternative to clearing new cropland is more efficient use of existing farmland.
Yale Environment 360 is
a publication of the
Yale School of Forestry
& Environmental Studies
Yale Environment 360
articles are now available in Spanish and Portuguese on Universia
, the online educational network. Visit the site.
Business & Innovation
Policy & Politics
Pollution & Health
Science & Technology
Antarctica and the Arctic
Central & South America
Tribal people and ranchers join together to stop a project that would haul coal across their Montana land. Watch the video.
is now available for mobile devices at e360.yale.edu/mobile
The 2015 Yale e360 Video Contest winner documents a Northeastern town's bitter battle over a wind farm. Watch the video.
A 2015 Yale e360 Video Contest winner captures stunning images of wild salmon runs in Alaska. Watch the video.
video series looks at the staggering amount of food wasted in the U.S. – a problem with major human and environmental costs. Watch the video.
video goes onto the front lines with Colorado firefighters confronting deadly blazes fueled by a hotter, drier climate. Watch the video.
A three-part series Tainted Harvest
looks at the soil pollution crisis in China, the threat it poses to the food supply, and the complexity of any cleanup. Read the series.