Researchers from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and Heidelberg University have found that by changing the way we use land, we could potentially double food production, save water, and increase carbon storage capacity. Currently, food production systems do not make the most efficient use of our ecosystems. Deforestation is continuing to make way for farmland, leading to negative impacts on water availability and carbon storage. However, the researchers suggest that by moving fields, pastures, and natural vegetation to more efficient areas and limiting irrigation to croplands, we could achieve these goals. The researchers used a dynamic vegetation model and optimization algorithm to study different land use scenarios and their impacts. The results showed that optimized land use could increase food production by 83%, water availability by 8%, and CO2 storage capacity by 3%. The study suggests that tropical and boreal forests should be preserved or reforested for their carbon storage capacity, while temperate latitudes should be used for cropland. Open savannas and grasslands could be used for pastures and food production. The researchers acknowledge that significant land use changes would be needed to achieve this, but they emphasize the importance of managing these changes to take into account both biophysical conditions and social aspects. Additionally, they believe that implementing optimized land use could increase agricultural yields and reduce land consumption, helping to address the challenge of securing global food supply in the face of climate change.
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