Food security and land use change
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In July 2013 a joint funding call of approximately €10·5m was launched between the Belmont Forum and the Agriculture, Food Security & Climate Change Joint Programming Initiative (FACCE-JPI), aimed at supporting excellent research on the theme of food security and land-use change.
The coming decades will see substantial growth in food demand and change in diet type. They will also see global and regional food provision becoming increasingly subject to environmental, private and political pressures. Even today, about one billion people do not have access to sufficient calories, while a further billion do not have access to a balanced diet.
Current methods of producing food have had - and continue to have - a serious negative impact on the environment, with significant local degradation of soils, water resources and biodiversity in many parts of the world.
Globally, agriculture and associated land-use change contributes about a quarter of all anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases, and significantly affects global nitrogen and phosphorus dynamics. The need to produce more food, animal feed, fibre and biofuels, as well as the need to use land for conservation or recreation will impose growing pressure on already scarce land resources to sustain ecosystem health and services. Such pressures will be exacerbated by the impacts of climate change.
This collaborative research action focuses on one aspect of food security: the two-way interactions between the dynamics of food systems and land use change, including the implications of the change on biodiversity and ecosystem services. Food security research is a vast agenda spanning political, economic and social issues related to sustainable food production and, above all, access to food in terms of quantity as well as of quality. Trying to access all the complexity in one call would be virtually impossible.
Land-use, and especially change in land use, is arguably the most significant driver of environmental change, as it leads to many of the main areas of concern: loss of biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions, soil degradation and alteration of hydrological cycles. Land-use change is occurring worldwide due to human development dynamics. It ranges from whole-scale changes in land cover (eg from natural forest to grassland / cropping - 'extensification'), to changes in the intensity of cropping on a given site (eg from one crop per year to two crops per year - 'intensification'), as well as changes in the type of cropping on a given site (eg from food crops to energy crops), or from crop production to conservation. The nature of changes in the farming technologies and practices employed (eg the use of fertilizers, soil and water management, rotations, set-aside) can differ substantially in their effects on carbon storage, biodiversity, hydrology, etc.
Change in land use also impacts access to food. It is a major driver of social change, especially since social systems translate into specific spatial organisation patterns (eg multifunctional land areas versus specialised land areas; individual property rights versus customary rights, etc). Land-use change impacts livelihoods and economic systems, migration patterns and social cohesion, and on cultural norms and preferences. Along with land-use change, social and economic value systems can change; markets and trade opportunities can open and close; and political, economic, cultural and social capitals can all be gained and lost.
Many nations are grappling with the research challenges presented by this complex agenda. In order to add value to individual nations' efforts, this Belmont Forum / FACCE-JPI collaboration will focus international effort on enhancing understanding of the diversity of spatial scale interactions between land-use change and food security dynamics.
This Belmont Forum / FACCE-JPI collaboration will contribute to the new global platform Future Earth (launched at Rio+20) and, where appropriate, will enhance collaboration for the Climate Change, Agriculture & Food Security (CCAFS) programme, as well as the Global Land Project.
There is a combined international budget of approximately €10·5m. The UK (BBSRC, ESRC and NERC) budget stands at €1·75m.
The UK expects to support UK participation in a total of approximately five to eight projects across both Type 1 and Type 2 projects.
In April 2014, three awards were announced for Type 1 projects - external link -. UK researchers are participating in two of the consortia jointly supported by NERC, BBSRC and ESRC at a level of approximately €248k.
In December 2014, four awards were announced for Type 2 projects - external link. UK researchers are participating in three of the consortia jointly supported by NERC, BBSRC and ESRC at a level of approximately €1·5m.