Land Is a Limited Resource
More and more people want to use the resource of land to an increasingly intensive degree. This leads not only to conflict, but changes also the face of our planet in many ways: Today, more than 50 per cent of the population already live in urban regions, agriculture is increasingly industrialised and only a small part of the earth's surface (approx. 10 to 11 per cent) enjoys the status of declared protected area.
At the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research — UFZ in Leipzig, we research concepts for a sustainable utilisation of the limited resource land. The IPCC1 report indicates that 20 to 30 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions are due to intensified utilisation by agriculture as well as by settlement and transport areas. This promotes soil degradation and soil surface sealing, cuts through landscapes and leads to the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Regional studies in the framework of the funding programme "Sustainable Land Management" (funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research with about 115 million Euro over the period 2010 to 2016) now are to develop knowledge-based recommendations for the utilisation of land. The funding programme is scientifically supported by the UFZ project GLUES2 (Global Assessment of Land Use Dynamics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Ecosystem Services). As part of the funding programme, GLUES supports the various projects within the programme by public relations activities and by putting regional aspects in a global context. In doing so, we pursue the goals that serve also as guidelines to development during the imminent Rio+ Conference: Minimising poverty and safeguarding environmental protection against the background of a steadily increasing global population.
Ecosystem Services Example: Pollination of Crops
Many agricultural crops are pollinated by insects, such as honey and wild bees, butterflies or bumblebees. If land use is intensified, for instance, by the increased dispersion of pesticides on the fields, by intensified fertilisation and by the transformation of structural elements of the landscape, such as hedges and rows of trees, into fields, the insects disappear. Together with colleagues from the Technical University Dresden and the University of Freiburg, we conducted a closer investigation of this correlation on the example of 60 agricultural crops, including cocoa, coffee, apples and soy beans. The result: The value of ecological services by pollination has steadily increased, from some 200 billion US dollar in 1993 to approximately 350 billion US dollar in 2009. The benefit derived from products dependent on pollination is particularly high in countries such as China, India, the USA, Brazil and Japan. Accordingly, the prices for pollination-dependent products, such as cocoa, coffee or fruits and berries, will rise more than those for products not depending on pollination, such as rice, grain or maize. In future, we may therefore continue to be able to feed ourselves, but we will be less and less able to afford vitamin-rich fruit or an invigorating espresso.
(Publication: Sven Lautenbach et al. (2012), Spatial and temporal trends of global pollination benefit. PLoS ONE)