Carbon storage and land-use strategies in agricultural landscapes across three continents (Curr. Biol.)

As we face increasingly odd weather patterns resulting from elevated CO2 emissions to the atmosphere, the question of how best to balance the need to produce food with the desire to minimize CO2 emissions becomes increasingly urgent. Williams et al. compared the effects of different types of land-use strategies on above-ground carbon stocks. They found that any agricultural use led to a decrease in carbon storage as compared to natural habitats. When they compared three different land-use strategies (land sharing with low-yield agriculture, land sparing with high-yield agriculture, and an intermediate strategy), the highest above-ground carbon stocks were maintained with the high-yield, land sparing strategy. Although they conclude that setting aside natural habitats and employing high-yield methods is the most beneficial for carbon storage, they recognize that “land sparing is unlikely to occur passively” but that it needs to involve land-use zoning, taxes or subsidies, and strategic investment to alter the relative profitability of agriculture. (Summary by Mary Williams) Curr. Biol. 10.1016/j.cub.2018.05.087