Changing Land Use and Land Cover

LoggingThe conversion of natural habitat to land used for agriculture and industry is occurring on a global scale, driven by an increasing demand for food, animal products, biofuel, and even cosmetics. Habitat conversion alters the structure and function of ecosystems in many ways, including:

Learning Objectives

  • L1: Define types of land use and land cover change.
  • L2: Develop an understanding of the role of land use planning in sustainable development and human health.
  • L3: Explain the roles of and relationships between key stakeholders when considering issues of land use and land cover change


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Lana RM, da Gomes MFC, de Lima TFM, Honório NA, Codeço CT. The introduction of dengue follows transportation infrastructure changes in the state of Acre, Brazil: A network-based analysis . PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases [Internet]. 2017. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Human mobility, presence and passive transportation of Aedes aegypti mosquito, and environmental characteristics are a group of factors which contribute to the success of dengue spread and establishment. To understand this process, we assess data from dengue national and municipal basins regarding population and demographics, transportation network, human mobility, and Ae. aegypti monitoring for the Brazilian state of Acre since the first recorded dengue case in the year 2000 to the year 2015. During this period, several changes in Acre’s transport infrastructure and urbanization have been started. To reconstruct the process of dengue introduction in Acre, we propose an analytic framework based on concepts used in malaria literature, namely vulnerability and receptivity, to inform risk assessments in dengue-free regions as well as network theory concepts for disease invasion and propagation. We calculate the probability of dengue importation to Acre from other Brazilian states, the evolution of dengue spread between Acrean municipalities and dengue establishment in the state. Our findings suggest that the landscape changes associated with human mobility have created favorable conditions for the establishment of dengue virus transmission in Acre. The revitalization of its major roads, as well as the increased accessibility by air to and within the state, have increased dengue vulnerability. Unplanned urbanization and population growth, as observed in Acre during the period of study, contribute to ideal conditions for Ae. aegyptimosquito establishment, increase the difficulty in mosquito control and consequently its local receptivity.

Myers SS. Planetary health: protecting human health on a rapidly changing planet . The Lancet [Internet]. 2017. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The impact of human activities on our planet's natural systems has been intensifying rapidly in the past several decades, leading to disruption and transformation of most natural systems. These disruptions in the atmosphere, oceans, and across the terrestrial land surface are not only driving species to extinction, they pose serious threats to human health and wellbeing. Characterising and addressing these threats requires a paradigm shift. In a lecture delivered to the Academy of Medical Sciences on Nov 13, 2017, I describe the scale of human impacts on natural systems and the extensive associated health effects across nearly every dimension of human health. I highlight several overarching themes that emerge from planetary health and suggest advances in the way we train, reward, promote, and fund the generation of health scientists who will be tasked with breaking out of their disciplinary silos to address this urgent constellation of health threats. I propose that protecting the health of future generations requires taking better care of Earth's natural systems.

Allen T, Murray KA, Zambrana-Torrelio C, Morse SS, Rondinini C, Marco MD, Breit N, Olival KJ, Daszak P. Global hotspots and correlates of emerging zoonotic diseases . Nature Communications [Internet]. 2017. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Zoonoses originating from wildlife represent a significant threat to global health, security and economic growth, and combatting their emergence is a public health priority. However, our understanding of the mechanisms underlying their emergence remains rudimentary. Here we update a global database of emerging infectious disease (EID) events, create a novel measure of reporting effort, and fit boosted regression tree models to analyze the demographic, environmental and biological correlates of their occurrence. After accounting for reporting effort, we show that zoonotic EID risk is elevated in forested tropical regions experiencing land-use changes and where wildlife biodiversity (mammal species richness) is high. We present a new global hotspot map of spatial variation in our zoonotic EID risk index, and partial dependence plots illustrating relationships between events and predictors. Our results may help to improve surveillance and long-term EID monitoring programs, and design field experiments to test underlying mechanisms of zoonotic disease emergence.


Griscom BW, Adams J, Ellis PW, Houghton RA, Lomax G, Miteva DA, Schlesinger WH, Shoch D, Siikamäki JV, Smith P, et al. Natural climate solutions . Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [Internet]. 2017. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Better stewardship of land is needed to achieve the Paris Climate Agreement goal of holding warming to below 2 °C; however, confusion persists about the specific set of land stewardship options available and their mitigation potential. To address this, we identify and quantify “natural climate solutions” (NCS): 20 conservation, restoration, and improved land management actions that increase carbon storage and/or avoid greenhouse gas emissions across global forests, wetlands, grasslands, and agricultural lands. We find that the maximum potential of NCS—when constrained by food security, fiber security, and biodiversity conservation—is 23.8 petagrams of CO2 equivalent (PgCO2e) y−1 (95% CI 20.3–37.4). This is ≥30% higher than prior estimates, which did not include the full range of options and safeguards considered here. About half of this maximum (11.3 PgCO2e y−1) represents cost-effective climate mitigation, assuming the social cost of CO2 pollution is ≥100 USD MgCO2e−1 by 2030. Natural climate solutions can provide 37% of cost-effective CO2 mitigation needed through 2030 for a >66% chance of holding warming to below 2 °C. One-third of this cost-effective NCS mitigation can be delivered at or below 10 USD MgCO2−1. Most NCS actions—if effectively implemented—also offer water filtration, flood buffering, soil health, biodiversity habitat, and enhanced climate resilience. Work remains to better constrain uncertainty of NCS mitigation estimates. Nevertheless, existing knowledge reported here provides a robust basis for immediate global action to improve ecosystem stewardship as a major solution to climate change.

Schulte LA, Niemi J, Helmers MJ, Liebman M, Arbuckle JG, James DE, Kolka RK, O’Neal ME, Tomer MD, Tyndall JC, et al. Prairie strips improve biodiversity and the delivery of multiple ecosystem services from corn–soybean croplands . Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [Internet]. 2017;114 (42). Publisher's VersionAbstract

Loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystem services from agricultural lands remain important challenges in the United States despite decades of spending on natural resource management. To date, conservation investment has emphasized engineering practices or vegetative strategies centered on monocultural plantings of nonnative plants, largely excluding native species from cropland. In a catchment-scale experiment, we quantified the multiple effects of integrating strips of native prairie species amid corn and soybean crops, with prairie strips arranged to arrest run-off on slopes. Replacing 10% of cropland with prairie strips increased biodiversity and ecosystem services with minimal impacts on crop production. Compared with catchments containing only crops, integrating prairie strips into cropland led to greater catchment-level insect taxa richness (2.6-fold), pollinator abundance (3.5-fold), native bird species richness (2.1-fold), and abundance of bird species of greatest conservation need (2.1-fold). Use of prairie strips also reduced total water runoff from catchments by 37%, resulting in retention of 20 times more soil and 4.3 times more phosphorus. Corn and soybean yields for catchments with prairie strips decreased only by the amount of the area taken out of crop production. Social survey results indicated demand among both farming and nonfarming populations for the environmental outcomes produced by prairie strips. If federal and state policies were aligned to promote prairie strips, the practice would be applicable to 3.9 million ha of cropland in Iowa alone.


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