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Almost a fifth of the Earth’s land surface has changed in the past 60 years

According to a study published in Nature Communications, since 1960, one-fifth of the Earth’s land area, or about 43 million square kilometers, has been transformed.

The area of globally altered land is four times larger than previous estimates. This is the result of a study published in the academic journal Nature Communications.

Whether it’s converting forests to cropland or converting savannahs to grasslands, humans have converted land use over the past 60 years into an area the size of Africa and Africa. Africa, according to researchers.

“Land use plays a central role in mitigating climate change,” said Karina Winkler, lead author of the study, physical geographer at Wageningen University and center for biodiversity and food production research in the Nederlands. Therefore, defining land use and conversion objectives is essential for sustainable land use strategies.

Trees and land, especially tropical forests, absorb about 30% of anthropogenic carbon emissions. Thus, large-scale landscape changes can lead to success or failure in meeting the Paris Agreement’s global warming temperature reduction targets.

The 2015 climate agreement requires countries to limit global warming to 2 ° C below pre-industrial levels and try to limit it to 1.5 ° C.

Earth’s temperature has risen 1.2 ° C from pre-industrial levels, leading to a series of natural disasters such as deadly hurricanes, sea level rise, and more.

The study found that, since 1960, the total forest area on Earth has declined by nearly one million square kilometers, while the area covered by cropland and grassland has increased at about the same rate.

However, there are regional differences. As a result, the forest area of the North including Europe, Russia, East Asia and North America has increased over the past 60 years, while deforestation in developing countries of the Southern hemisphere is at an alarming rate. On the other hand, arable land has decreased in the North and extended to the global South, in particular to meet the needs of rich countries.

Tropical deforestation has occurred on a large scale for agricultural production like raising cattle for meat, planting sugarcane and soybeans in the Brazilian Amazon, planting oil palm in Southeast Asia, cocoa in Nigeria and Cameroon.

The high price of crude oil and peaked at 145 USD / barrel in 2008 is also the reason for the conversion of forest land to tree planting for bioenergy production.

The study shows that the rapid change in the destination of land use stemmed from the Green Revolution in the 1960s-1970s, followed by the expansion of the globalized market until 2005. However, after a period of volatility on the world market, the conversion has slowed down.

The study found that about 17% of the Earth’s land surface has been altered at least once since 1960. The total area affected is equivalent to 32%.

It is known that the surface of the Earth covers 510 million square kilometers, of which about 70%, or 361 million square kilometers, is made up of water, mainly oceans. Of the remaining 149 million square kilometers, approximately 15 million square kilometers are permanently covered with ice and 134 million square kilometers are ice-free land.

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