Agriculture production as a major driver of the Earth system exceeding planetary boundaries

We explore the role of agriculture in destabilizing the Earth system at the planetary scale, through examining nine planetary boundaries, or “safe limits”: land-system change, freshwater use, biogeochemical flows, biosphere integrity, climate change, ocean acidification, stratospheric ozone depletion, atmospheric aerosol loading, and introduction of novel entities. Two planetary boundaries have been fully transgressed, i.e., are at high risk, biosphere integrity and biogeochemical flows, and agriculture has been the major driver of the transgression. Three are in a zone of uncertainty i.e., at increasing risk, with agriculture the major driver of two of those, land-system change and freshwater use, and a significant contributor to the third, climate change. Agriculture is also a significant or major contributor to change for many of those planetary boundaries still in the safe zone. To reduce the role of agriculture in transgressing planetary boundaries, many interventions will be needed, including those in broader food systems.

Campbell B. M., Beare D. J., Bennett E. M., Hall-Spencer J. M., Ingram J. S. I., Jaramillo F., Ortiz R., Ramankutty N., Sayer J. A. & Shindell D., 2017. Agriculture production as a major driver of the Earth system exceeding planetary boundaries. Ecology and Society 22(4): 8.
doi: 10.5751/ES-09595-220408. Article.

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