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Balancing the Scales in the Global Land Use Marketplace

As part of the Dublin City of Science 2012, IES scientist Alan Belward gave a very well received talk on competition in the global land use marketplace at the Alchemist Café in Dublin on the evening of the 21st November 2012.

In his 24-minute talk, Alan explained how the increasing world population (conservative estimates are that the human population is increasing by around 135 people per minute) coupled with growing rates of consumption are putting more and more pressure on land as a resource, which is effectively finite and non-renewable in an individual’s lifetime.

“lt’s all about numbers… we’ve been adding to the human population by about 135 a minute”

Alan explained how we need to protect global land resources, as they are fundamental to our survival (as a source of food, fuel, fibre) and to the climate system (as the land surface plays a major role in the carbon, water and energy cycles).

“A rugby pitch of forest is lost every 3 seconds"

One contribution to this is through policymaking and international conventions. Alan explained how the JRC provides scientific evidence for EU policy formation and decision making in this area by using geospatial data to map the world and monitor the environment over time. He described how regular satellite imagery of the Earth’s surface helps provide reliable quantitative measurements of particular environmental situations. This allows us to build a picture of how the planet is changing over time, and helps us assess the rate of global deforestation and desavannisation. The JRC also studies the drivers of such environmental change, which vary in different parts of the world.

“Information gathering has never been more real”

Alan described how food security is likely to become an issue as demand increases (due to population growth) and land resources become less readily available (due to land degradation, land take and competing non-food producing land-use practices). Land take has a particular impact in the EU, where soils are being sealed at a rate of about 1,000 km2 per annum through increasing urbanisation, car parks, roads, etc. This is compounded by the fact that cities generally have their origins in the most fertile land areas. Vegetated land accounts for only 20% of the Earth’s surface, and less than 20% of these soils can sustain agriculture unaided. Efforts are being made at the EU and international level to better understand and protect soils for future generations. The JRC uses regular geospatial datasets and satellite data to make global measurements of the Earth’s surface in order to help reduce uncertainty in elements of the climate system, deforestation rates and climate change. These measurements are then used to inform stakeholders, shape policies, and promote transparency and good governance.

You can view Alan’s talk on the following YouTube link:

Further information


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