With a world population pushing past seven billion on its way to who knows what, and an increasing demand for farmland, forests around the world are under pressure. Though roughly thirty percent of the world’s land is still covered in forest, in many areas that forest is sliced through by roads, chopped into by farms, clear cut for lumber, and simply encroached on by human habitation. The result is that much of the world’s forest has been forced into “islands” which are separated from one another by lanes of human activity. This reduces the overall health of the forest, and by limiting the range of animal populations makes them much more susceptible to localized conditions.
Forests support the most diverse populations of plants and animals found on land, but forests also produce a relatively low energy per acre when it comes to making food. So … if we’re going to feed an ever-growing human population, does that mean a world where trees are pulped to make room for more cropland. Not necessarily. According to new research, we can keep the people and the trees.
Safeguarding the world’s remaining forests is a high-priority goal. We assess the biophysical option space for feeding the world in 2050 in a hypothetical zero-deforestation world. We systematically combine realistic assumptions on future yields, agricultural areas, livestock feed and human diets. For each scenario, we determine whether the supply of crop products meets the demand and whether the grazing intensity stays within plausible limits.
You can get a solution that will please both the lunch crowd and the Lorax, but we have to be careful.