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Intensity of land use doubled in the 20th century

Newly published research by ALTER-Net partners into the human appropriation of net primary productivity

The growth of green plants – which can be measured in terms of “net primary production”, or NPP for short – provides the energetic foundation for all life on earth. The share of NPP appropriated by humans (HANPP) through agriculture and forestry, bioenergy production, and vegetation fires doubled over the course of the past century. In a study published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), researchers have shown that while land is used more efficiently, simultaneously, the intensity of land use has increased continuously. The authors warn that an increased expansion of bioenergy use would drastically raise HANPP to over 40%.

Most of the paper's authors are from ALTER-Net partner, the Institute of Social Ecology at Alpen-Adria University, Vienna, Austria. One also works for CNRS, France and another for PIK, Germany. They were joined by a researcher from Princeton University, USA.

Reference: Krausmann, F., Erb, K.-H., Gingrich, S., Haberl, H., Bondeau, A., Gaube, V., Lauk, C., Plutzar, C., Searchinger, T.D. (2013). Global human appropriation of net primary production doubled in the 20th century. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 10.1073/pnas.1211349110

The paper is available online at: