Food security is necessary for a population to thrive, forest products provide important raw materials, and availability of land and water are vital to maintain food security and other ecosystem services. Over the last several decades, management of these resources has dramatically increased agricultural productivity, allowing rapidly rising food demand to be met. However, populations continue to grow, environments continue to change, and in some regions, pressures on food, forests and freshwater resources are intensifying.
Although current estimates indicate adequate land resources to meet future food and forest demands, the global food system struggles with distribution; while more than enough food is produced each year to feed everyone, nearly one billion people suffer from hunger and malnutrition. Additionally, while human activity taps only a small share of the world’s available freshwater, supply and management is a serious concern; despite adequate global freshwater supplies, large, heavily populated areas in the subtropics already suffer from acute water stress and unsustainable use of groundwater. Food and water availability may be further compromised by the effects of environmental change (climate, tropospheric ozone, soil degradation, deforestation and urbanization) and competition from new land uses (e.g. large-scale biofuel cultivation or use of forests to sequester carbon).
As population/economic growth and environmental/land-use change puts increasing pressure on our land and water resources, the study of how to moderate or alleviate this pressure will become increasingly important to decision-makers. In the interest of maintaining the availability of these vital resources, we examine policies to promote biodiversity, store carbon, limit degradation of soil and water, and provide other critical ecosystem services while best meeting conventional demand for agriculture and forest products.We also examine the effects of continued technological improvements, adaptations to make more efficient use of both resources, and more equitable resource allocation.
Our Integrated Global System Modling (IGSM) framework allows us to model affects of changing environment on crops, forests, water and land resources; the effects of increasing population and income on demand for these resources; how new resource demands such as for biomass energy may affect global food and forest supply; and how technology and markets may ameliorate these effects.
To learn more about our research in this area, please contact the Joint Program.