Estimating Greenlash from Agriculture via Climatic Regulation

Ecological greenlash occurs when human action aimed at increasing the supply of a desired ecosystem service (e.g. food production) inadvertenly degrade other ecosystem services (e.g. climatic regulation or pollination) that are essential for the provision of the desired ecosystem service, consquently reducing the supply of the desired ecosystem service.

While ecologists have documented many examples of greenlash at small spatial scales, a gap has existed between ecological research and the questions and spatial scales of ecological policy. Research is starting to close bridge this gap.

Roger Pielke Sr. points to several New Papers on the Importance of Land Use/Land Cover Change on Climate on his Climate Science blog. These include one by my new McGill Geography colleague, Navin Ramankutty and several of his colleagues from SAGE at U Wisconsin. In the paper:

Ramankutty, Navin, Christine Delire, and Peter Snyder, 2006. Feedbacks between agriculture and climate: An illustration of the potential unintended consequences of human land use activities. Global and Planetary Change, in press, corrected proof available online.

Ramankutty and colleagues examine agricultural greenlash by estimating the impact land conversion from agriculture has had via feedbacks on climate on the ability of people to practice agriculture. They find that globally the change is minimal, but in specific regions the change is substantial (a result similar to what Line Gordon and colleagues found in their estimates of how agriculture has altered global green water flows).

Ramankutty climate suitability

Figure 4 in the paper shows areas where the suitability for agriculture (where 1 is max suitability and cross hatching indicates areas where changes appears to be statistically significant) has increased or decreased due to the impact of agricultural land use change on global climate.

One thought on “Estimating Greenlash from Agriculture via Climatic Regulation”

  1. Very interesting discussion. I am an aerospace engineer working on fuel combustion. So far fuel efficiency with no consideration to the environmental impact of the fuel used to be the prime concern in our research. The department of environmental engineering used to do separate research to control pollution. Last year we took an initiative to do combined research with environmental engineering department to do research on increasing fuel efficiency having environmental impact as a consideration.

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