Exploring future changes in land use and land condition and the impacts on food, water, climate change and biodiversity: Scenarios for the UNCCD Global Land Outlook

The pressure on land is growing in many regions of the world, due to the increasing demand for arable crops, meat and dairy products, bio-energy and timber, and is exacerbated by land degradation and climate change. This policy report provides scenario projections for the UNCCD Global Land Outlook, exploring future changes to the use and condition of land and the resulting impacts on food, water, climate change and biodiversity.

Land management plays a central role in the Sustainable Development Goals

Land is a major overarching theme connecting the three Rio Conventions covering climate change (UNFCCC), biodiversity (CBD), and desertification and land degradation (UNCCD).
Furthermore, a large number of the Sustainable Development Goals have strong links to land and land management, and trade-offs between sustainability ambitions often materialise on land.

Scenario projections for the UNCCD's Global Land Outlook

The PBL-study explores how various demands on land are expected to change under alternative future developments up to 2050, how that will affect the challenges facing global sustainability ambitions, and the extent to which land degradation may exacerbate these challenges. It provides policymakers with quantitative information on the order of magnitude of future change to the land system, and may support the debate on policy priorities and interventions.

Largest challenges for Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East/Northern Africa and South Asia

These regions are characterised by a combination of land-related challenges which are much more serious than those faced by other regions. These consist of high levels of population growth (also in  drylands), low current levels of GDP per capita, generally low crop yields, intense pressure on agricultural expansion, marked increases in water stress, and a dependency on food imports from other regions.

Negative trends in productivity and soil condition due to land management practices are most severe in Sub-Saharan Africa. In all three regions, the strongly increasing pressure on land makes land management key to maintain ecosystem functions for the benefit of 4.9agriculture and the water cycle.

Clarification to Exploring Future Changes in Land Use 2017

The legend for Figure 4.12  in the publication on the global land outlook has been corrected. The addition to the legend is that crops include non-woody biofuels.

This study was conducted at the request of the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in support of the Global Land Outlook. The research and modelling was developed by PBL in cooperation with many experts from various institutions, including Wageningen University, Utrecht University, Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, Wageningen Economic Research, and ISRIC World Soil Information.


Stefan van der Esch, Ben ten Brink, Elke Stehfest, Michel Bakkenes, Annelies Sewell, Arno Bouwman, Johan Meijer, Henk Westhoek (PBL) and Maurits van den Berg (Joint Research Centre)


Publication title
Exploring future changes in land use and land condition and the impacts on food, water, climate change and biodiversity: Scenarios for the UNCCD Global Land Outlook
Publication date
1 August 2017
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