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Reversing the great degradation of nature through economic development

Cite this dataset

Polasky, Stephen et al. (2023). Reversing the great degradation of nature through economic development [Dataset]. Dryad.


We analyze past and anticipated future trends in crop yields, per capita consumption, and population to estimate agricultural land requirements globally by 2050 and 2100. Assuming “business as usual,” higher-income countries are expected to show little or no net growth in cropland by the end of the century, even in the face of moderate climate change. In contrast, in lower-income countries, we project that land requirements will grow dramatically, and climate change will likely double this expansion. Although economic growth is often considered to work in opposition to conservation, accelerating economic development in lower-income countries, which would help alleviate poverty and increase standards of living, would also greatly reduce potential cropland expansion in lower-income countries, even with climate change, owing to slower population growth and improved crop yields that more than offset increased per capita consumption. Combining economic development in low-income countries with reduced consumption in high-income countries could dramatically shrink global cropland requirements by the year 2100 even with moderate climate change. Such a remarkable reduction in cropland area would have enormous benefits for both biodiversity and global climate change. 

Usage notes

All of the data files are analyzed using R.