Anthropogenic transformation of the biomes, 1700 to 2000

The aim was to map and characterize anthropogenic transformation of the terrestrial biosphere before and during the Industrial Revolution, from 1700 to 2000.

In 1700, nearly half of the terrestrial biosphere was wild, without human settlements or substantial land use. Most of the remainder was in a Seminatural state (45%) having only minor use for agriculture and settlements. By 2000, the opposite was true, with the majority of the biosphere in agricultural and settled anthromes, less than 20% Seminatural and only a quarter left wild. Anthropogenic transformation of the biosphere during the Industrial Revolution resulted about equally from land use expansion into Wildlands and land use intensification within Seminatural anthromes. Transformation pathways differed strongly between biomes and regions, with some remaining mostly wild but with the majority almost completely transformed into Rangelands, Croplands and Villages. In the process of transforming almost 39% of Earth’s total ice-free surface into agriculture and settlements, an additional 37% of global land without such use has become embedded within agricultural and settled anthromes.

Between 1700 and 2000, the terrestrial biosphere made the critical transition from mostly wild to mostly anthropogenic, passing the 50% mark early in the 20th century. At present and ever more in the future, terrestrial ecosystem form and process in most biomes will be predominantly anthropogenic, the product of land use and other direct human interactions with ecosystems. Ecological research and conservation efforts in all but a few biomes would benefit from a primary focus on the novel remnant, recovering and managed ecosystems embedded within used lands.


Ellis, E. C., Klein Goldewijk, K., Siebert, S., Lightman, D. and Ramankutty, N.


Publication title
Anthropogenic transformation of the biomes, 1700 to 2000
Publication date
1 September 2010
Publication type
Global Ecology and Biogeography, 19: 589–606
Product number