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Master of Environmental Science and Management: Master's Group Project

Projections of Future Agricultural Abandonment: Impacts to Biodiversity, Carbon, and Human Well-being

agricultural plan greenhouses

Group Members: Lucas Boyd, Michelle Geldin, Shayan Kaveh, Nickolas (Nick) McManus, Max Settineri

Faculty Advisors: Ashley Larsen

Client: Conservation International




Population growth and global warming are projected to drive large-scale land-use change, altering the distribution of agricultural lands across the planet. Degraded, less productive agricultural lands are expected to be abandoned, while intensification will increase on higher-quality parcels. This abandonment is driven by various socioeconomic and environmental factors that render agriculture unsustainable and no longer economically viable on certain lands. The loss of food production from land abandonment can devastate communities that rely on local agriculture for subsistence and income. However, if managed strategically, these abandoned lands can offer numerous environmental benefits through carbon sequestration, biodiversity preservation, and ecosystem services that aid local communities.

Understanding where agricultural abandonment will occur and overlap with areas of high environmental and social importance can meaningfully support conservation and land use planning. Thus, the first goal of this project is to project where croplands will be abandoned globally based on alternative climate scenarios. The next stages of our analysis will focus on Brazil due to its high levels of biodiversity and potential for carbon storage. An analysis will be conducted to determine which Brazilian abandoned lands should be prioritized for conservation to maximize benefits to carbon sequestration, biodiversity, and human well-being. Finally, we will provide policy recommendations that can facilitate the conservation of the highest value land parcels identified in our analyses.

Client Contacts: Cameryn Brock and Patrick Roehrdanz

PhD Mentor: Nakoa Farrant

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