Consequences of land use change for ecosystem services: A future unlike the past

Authors: DeFries, R.1; Bounoua, L.2

Source: GeoJournal, Volume 61, Number 4, December 2004 , pp. 345-351(7)

Publisher: Springer

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This study investigates the implications of past and future land use change for two ecosystem services provided by terrestrial vegetation: net primary production, which is the basis of the food chain, and modulation of climate through exchanges of energy, water, and momentum between the land surface and atmosphere. At the global scale, the most extensive land use change over the past several centuries occurred in temperate areas with cropland expansion in fertile areas. This type of conversion has generally increased net primary production due to water and nutrient inputs to mechanized agriculture and cooled surface climate due to increased albedo. In contrast, future land use change is projected to occur predominantly in the humid tropics, with large reductions in net primary production and a warming effect due to decreased transpiration. In the past, the effects of land use change on NPP and surface climate are not substantially outside the range of decadal-scale interannual variability. Future land use change alters these ecosystem services outside this range. The consequences of land use change in the coming decades are likely to be fundamentally different than in the past.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography, University of Maryland, 2181 Lefrak Hall, College Park, 20742, MD, USA, Email: 2: Goddard Space Flight Center, Biospheric Sciences Branch, University of Maryland, Greenbelt, MD, USA,

Publication date: December 1, 2004

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