A new study at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, or LBNL, has found that increasing protected lands might negatively impact other sectors of land use, such as agriculture.
According to study co-author and LBNL Earth Research scientist Alan Di Vittorio, the research aims to answer questions surrounding the global initiative to protect 30% of the world’s land by 2030.
“Our analysis shows that regions with relatively high percentages of land use may both gain the most from protection (in terms of preserving undeveloped land) and also lose the most (in terms of less agricultural expansion and production) over time,” Di Vittorio said in an email.
An LBNL press release said the study’s findings suggest that meeting the goal of 30% land protection could lead to substantial regional shifts in land use and may still fail to protect biodiversity in some areas.
The tradeoffs of land protection might negatively impact sectors that the land would have been used for, like agriculture. Some other tradeoffs, as noted in the press release, are less land to plant bioenergy crops and less forest from which to harvest timber.
“Changes in land use/management are both drivers of and responses to changing conditions, and can have far reaching effects through both Earth and Human systems that can contribute to things such as food scarcity or biodiversity loss,” Di Vittorio said in an email.
According to Patrick Gonzalez, executive director of UC Berkeley’s Institute of Parks, People, and Biodiversity, there are several ways to address questions surrounding land protection and agricultural productivity.
Gonzalez added that agriculture is largely responsible for deforestation, and that “intensification,” or more production on the same amount of land through sustainable agriculture, is one way to help the world meet its 30% conservation goal.
“There is a middle area that can provide solutions to both issues, that is the production of energy for human use and the protection of nature: the intensification of agriculture, reduction of meat consumption, and decentralized renewable energy,” Gonzalez said.
The press release stated that the researchers used a series of computer simulations to estimate the effects of doubling the amount of currently protected land to meet the 30% quota.
The state of California and the United States as a whole have committed to reaching the 30% protected lands target by 2030 under the “America the Beautiful” initiative, which was spearheaded by the White House in early 2021 as part of an effort to fulfill their obligation under the UN Convention of Biological Diversity.
As of right now, California is at 24%, the United States is at 13% and the world is at 16%, according to Gonzalez.
“The global push to protect 30% of land by 2030 will be a major undertaking, and the details of how this will be accomplished have not been worked out yet,” Di Vittorio said in an email. “This research demonstrates the importance of utilizing more detailed land information to explore the potential tradeoffs associated with doubling the currently protected land area.”