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How is land use related to climate change?

Atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gases, which include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O), are higher than any time over the last 650,000 years. We urgently need, therefore, to find ways of reducing our emissions of these gases.

Forest path
Photo by Scott Denham

The agriculture and forestry sectors act both as sources of greenhouse gas emissions as well as sinks, contributing about 31% of total greenhouse gas emissions globally, but removing about 16%. Soils represent a significant carbon pool which may be susceptible to future global warming and changes in precipitation patterns, as well as changes in land use. The main gases emitted by the agriculture sector are nitrous oxide and methane , with lesser amounts of from land use change and energy use, with most of the methane emissions due to enteric fermentation from livestock. Forestry makes a net contribution to reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide by carbon uptake in growing biomass, and through forest vegetation and soils.

Rural communities and land use systems, therefore, have the potential to make an important contribution to reducing net greenhouse gas emissions, and at the same time must also find ways of adapting to changes in temperature, precipitation, and increased carbon dioxide levels.

 

Updated: 15 Jun 2016, Content by: RM