Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New maps reveal true extent of human footprint on Earth

06.12.2005


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 Earth’s 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 world’s 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!
Further information:
http://www.wisc.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Safeguarding sustainability through forest certification mapping
27.06.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht Dune ecosystem modelling
26.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Carbon Nanotubes Turn Electrical Current into Light-emitting Quasi-particles

Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers

Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...

Im Focus: Flexible proximity sensor creates smart surfaces

Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.

At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA flights gauge summer sea ice melt in the Arctic

25.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

Fungi that evolved to eat wood offer new biomass conversion tool

25.07.2017 | Life Sciences

New map may lead to drug development for complex brain disorders, USC researcher says

25.07.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>