What Role Does Land-Use Change Have in Climate Science?

An excellent paper has just appeared on July 22, 2005 in Science by Jon Foley and colleagues entitled “Global Consequences of Land Use” (subscription required). Its abstract starts with

“Land use has generally been considered a local environmental issue, but it is becoming a force of global importance.”

The recognition of the importance of land use is overdue (see, for example, R-258 and R-267). The Foley et al. paper and in their supporting online material provide new insight into the global importance of land-use change. Tables S2A and S2B in their online material provide summaries of how large-scale land-cover change associated with the removal of different biomes could affect climate, including temperature and precipitation.

The paper goes beyond climate issues, however, and discusses the far-reaching and significant diversity of other environmental and societal effects of land-use change. This focus fits with the discussion of vulnerability presented in our Climate Science blog by Dev and Dita Niyogi on July 19th. The need to focus on a bottom-up perspective based on a vulnerability perspective, rather than a top-down emphasis in which the global circulation models are used as the starting point of an examination of environmental effects, was emphasized also in CB-37.pdf; CB-38.pdf; CB-39.pdf; CB-40.pdf; CB-41.pdf and CB-42.pdf.

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