New maps reveal true extent of human footprint on Earth
As global populations swell, farmers are cultivating more and more land in a desperate bid to keep pace with the ever-intensifying needs of humans.
As a result, agricultural activity now dominates more than a third of the Earths landscape and has emerged as one of the central forces of global environmental change, say scientists at the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Navin Ramankutty, an assistant scientist at SAGE, says, "the real question is: how can we continue to produce food from the land while preventing negative environmental consequences such as deforestation, water pollution and soil erosion?"
To better understand that crucial trade-off, Ramankutty and other SAGE researchers are tracking the changing patterns of agricultural land use around the world, including a look at related factors such as global crop yields and fertilizer use. Distilling that information into computer-generated maps, the scientists will present their early findings during the fall meeting (Dec. 5-9, 2005) of the American Geophysical Union.
"In the act of making these maps we are asking: where is the human footprint on the Earth?" says Amato Evan, a SAGE researcher who merged available census and satellite data to create visuals reflecting the reach of pasture and croplands worldwide. Chad Monfreda, a graduate student at SAGE, is similarly mapping the location, range and yields of over 150 individual crops reared around the planet.
The exercise is already beginning to cast light on some emerging trends. Countries such as Argentina and Brazil, for instance, have increasingly cleared forests to grow soybean, a legume that has never been a traditional crop of Latin America. Scientists say the surge in soybean production there has a lot to do with the booming demand for soy all the way at the other end of the world - in China. Meanwhile, Monfreda notes, long-time soybean farmers in the U.S. - the worlds top soybean producer - are growing increasingly insecure about their place in the global market.
But scientists risk missing important regional and local trends by taking only a global approach to land use change. "There is still a large disconnect between global, top-down views of changing planetary conditions, and the local, bottom-up perspective of how humans affect and live in a changing environment," says Jonathan Foley, director of SAGE.
To help bridge that gap, SAGE researchers are working towards a new "Earth Collaboratory," an unprecedented Internet-based data bank that would simultaneously draw on the knowledge of global scientists, local environmentalists and everyday citizens. Adds Foley: "[The Collaboratory] will truly be a brave new experiment that effectively bridges science, decision-making and real-world environmental practice - collectively envisioning a new way to live sustainably."
Navin Ramankutty | EurekAlert!
The most recent press releases about innovation >>>
Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:
Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.
Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...