Global human appropriation of net primary production doubled in the 20th century

Fridolin Krausmann, Karl Heinz Erb, Simone Gingrich, Helmut Haberl, Alberte Bondeau, Veronika Gaube, Christian Lauk, Christoph Plutzar, Timothy D. Searchinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

450 Scopus citations

Abstract

Global increases in population, consumption, and gross domestic product raise concerns about the sustainability of the current and future use of natural resources. The human appropriation of net primary production (HANPP) provides a useful measure of human intervention into the biosphere. The productive capacity of land is appropriated by harvesting or burning biomass and by converting natural ecosystems to managed lands with lower productivity. This work analyzes trends in HANPP from 1910 to 2005 and finds that although human population has grown fourfold and economic output 17-fold, global HANPP has only doubled. Despite this increase in efficiency, HANPP has still risen from 6.9 Gt of carbon per y in 1910 to 14.8 GtC/y in 2005, i.e., from 13% to 25% of the net primary production of potential vegetation. Biomass harvested per capita and year has slightly declined despite growth in consumption because of a decline in reliance on bioenergy and higher conversion efficiencies of primary biomass to products. The rise in efficiency is overwhelmingly due to increased crop yields, albeit frequently associated with substantial ecological costs, such as fossil energy inputs, soil degradation, and biodiversity loss. If humans can maintain the past trend lines in efficiency gains, we estimate that HANPP might only grow to 27-29% by 2050, but providing large amounts of bioenergy could increase global HANPP to 44%. This result calls for caution in refocusing the energy economy on land-based resources and for strategies that foster the continuation of increases in land-use efficiency without excessively increasing ecological costs of intensification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10324-10329
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume110
Issue number25
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 18 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

Keywords

  • Agriculture
  • Food
  • Global carbon cycle
  • Land use intensity
  • Resource use

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