The period since 1950 has brought "the most rapid transformation of the human relationship with the natural world in the history of humankind".[1] Almost one-third of the world's forests, and almost two-thirds of its grassland, have been lost to human agriculture—which now occupies almost half the world's habitable land.[2]

Land use, land-use change, and forestry (LULUCF), also referred to as Forestry and other land use (FOLU) or Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU),[3] is defined as a "greenhouse gas inventory sector that covers emissions and removals of greenhouse gases resulting from direct human-induced land use such as settlements and commercial uses, land-use change, and forestry activities."[4]

LULUCF has impacts on the global carbon cycle and as such, these activities can add or remove carbon dioxide (or, more generally, carbon) from the atmosphere, influencing climate.[5] LULUCF has been the subject of two major reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), but is difficult to measure.[6]: 12  Additionally, land use is of critical importance for biodiversity.[7]

A related term in the context of climate change mitigation is AFOLU which stands for "agriculture, forestry and other land use".[8]: 65 


The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Article 4(1)(a) requires all Parties to "develop, periodically update, publish and make available to the Conference of the Parties" as well as "national inventories of anthropogenic emissions by sources" "removals by sinks of all greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol."

Under the UNFCCC reporting guidelines, human-induced greenhouse emissions must be reported in six sectors: energy (including stationary energy and transport); industrial processes; solvent and other product use; agriculture; waste; and land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF).[9]

The rules governing accounting and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from LULUCF under the Kyoto Protocol are contained in several decisions of the Conference of Parties under the UNFCCC.

LULUCF has been the subject of two major reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).[10]

The Kyoto Protocol article 3.3 thus requires mandatory LULUCF accounting for afforestation (no forest for last 50 years), reforestation (no forest on 31 December 1989) and deforestation, as well as (in the first commitment period) under article 3.4 voluntary accounting for cropland management, grazing land management, revegetation and forest management (if not already accounted under article 3.3).[11]

This decision sets out the rules that govern how Kyoto Parties with emission reduction commitments (so-called Annex 1 Parties) account for changes in carbon stocks in land use, land-use change and forestry.[12] It is mandatory for Annex 1 Parties to account for changes in carbons stocks resulting from deforestation, reforestation and afforestation (B Article 3.3)[13] and voluntary to account for emissions from forest management, cropland management, grazing land management and revegetation (B. Article 3.4).[12]

Climate impacts

Per capita greenhouse gas emissions by country including land-use change, in the year 2000 according to World Resources Institute

Land-use change can be a factor in CO2 (carbon dioxide) atmospheric concentration, and is thus a contributor to global climate change.[14] IPCC estimates that land-use change (e.g. conversion of forest into agricultural land) contributes a net 1.6 ± 0.8 Gt carbon per year to the atmosphere. For comparison, the major source of CO2, namely emissions from fossil fuel combustion and cement production, amount to 6.3 ± 0.6 Gt carbon per year.[15]

In 2021 the Global Carbon Project estimated annual land-use change emissions were 4.1 ± 2.6 Gt CO2 (CO2 not carbon: 1 Gt carbon = 3.67 Gt CO2 [16]) for 2011–2020.[17]

The land-use sector is critical to achieving the aim of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 2 °C (3.6 °F).[18]

Land-use change alters not just atmospheric CO2 concentration but also land surface biophysics such as albedo and evapotranspiration, both of which affect climate.[19] The impact of land-use change on the climate is also more and more recognized by the climate modeling community. On regional or local scales, the impact of LUC can be assessed by Regional climate models (RCMs). This is however difficult, particularly for variables, which are inherently noisy, such as precipitation. For this reason, it is suggested to conduct RCM ensemble simulations.[20]

Extents and mapping

Share of the total land surface without and with consideration of multiple changes between six major land use/cover categories (urban area, cropland, pasture/rangeland, forest, unmanaged grass/shrubland, non-/sparsely vegetated land) in 1960–2019.[21]

A 2021 study estimated, with higher resolution data, that land-use change has affected 17% of land in 1960–2019, or when considering multiple change events 32%, "around four times" previous estimates. They also investigate its drivers, identifying global trade affecting agriculture as a main driver.[22][21]

Forest modeling

Traditionally, earth system modeling has been used to analyze forests for climate projections. However, in recent years there has been a shift away from this modeling towards more of mitigation and adaptation projections.[23] These projections can give researchers a better understanding of what future forest management practices should be employed. Furthermore, this new approach to modeling also allows for land management practices to be analyzed in the model. Such land management practices can be: forest harvest, tree species selection, grazing, and crop harvest. These land management practices are implemented to understand their biophysical and biogeochemical effects on the forest. However, there is a major lack of available data for these practices currently, so there needs to be further monitoring and data collecting to help improve the accuracy of the models.[24]

See also


  1. ^ Steffen, Will; Sanderson, Angelina; Tyson, Peter; Jäger, Jill; et al. (2004). "Global Change and the Climate System / A Planet Under Pressure" (PDF). International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP). pp. 131, 133. Archived (PDF) from the original on 19 March 2017. Fig. 3.67(j): loss of tropical rainforest and woodland, as estimated for tropical Africa, Latin America and South and Southeast Asia.
  2. ^ "Deforestation and Forest Loss / Humanity destroyed one third of the world's forests by expanding agricultural land". Our World in Data (OWID). Archived from the original on 7 November 2022. Data: Historical data on forests from Williams (2003) - Deforesting the Earth. Historical data on agriculture from The History Database of Global Environment (HYDE). Modern data from the FAO
  3. ^ "Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) — IPCC". Retrieved 2023-10-26.
  4. ^ "Glossary of climate change acronyms and terms". UNFCCC. Retrieved 2020-04-06.
  5. ^ Brown, Daniel G., ed. (2013). Land use and the carbon cycle : advances in integrated science, management, and policy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781107648357. OCLC 823505307.
  6. ^ "2022: Emissions Trends and Drivers". IPCC, 2022: Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (PDF). 2022. doi:10.1017/9781009157926.004.
  7. ^ Towards Sustainable Land Use: Aligning Biodiversity, Climate and Food Policies. (2020). France: OECD Publishing.
  8. ^ M. Pathak, R. Slade, P.R. Shukla, J. Skea, R. Pichs-Madruga, D. Ürge-Vorsatz,2022: Technical Summary. In: Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [P.R. Shukla, J. Skea, R. Slade, A. Al Khourdajie, R. van Diemen, D. McCollum, M. Pathak, S. Some, P. Vyas, R. Fradera, M. Belkacemi, A. Hasija, G. Lisboa, S. Luz, J. Malley, (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York, NY, USA. doi: 10.1017/9781009157926.002.
  9. ^ Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) 2006, National Greenhouse Gas Inventory 2004: Accounting for the 108% Target, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.
  10. ^ Good Practice Guidance for Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (Report). Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 2003. ISBN 4887880030.
  11. ^ Hohne N, Wartmann S, Herold A, Freibauer A (2007). "The rules for land use, land use change and forestry under the Kyoto Protocol—lessons learned for the future climate negotiations". Environmental Science and Policy. 10 (4): 353–69. doi:10.1016/j.envsci.2007.02.001. at p. 354
  12. ^ a b "Reporting on LULUCF activities under the Kyoto Protocol". Retrieved 2020-04-22.
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  14. ^ Ochoa-Hueso, R; Delgado-Baquerizo, M; King, PTA; Benham, M; Arca, V; Power, SA (February 2019). "Ecosystem type and resource quality are more important than global change drivers in regulating early stages of litter decomposition". Soil Biology and Biochemistry. 129: 144–152. doi:10.1016/j.soilbio.2018.11.009. hdl:10261/336676. S2CID 92606851.
  15. ^ "IPCC Special Reports: Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry". Retrieved 2020-10-19.
  16. ^ "Comparing CO2 emissions to CO2 levels". Sceptical science. Retrieved 26 January 2020.
  17. ^ Friedlingstein, Pierre; Jones, Matthew W.; O'Sullivan, Michael; Andrew, Robbie M.; Bakker, Dorothee C. E.; Hauck, Judith; Le Quéré, Corinne; Peters, Glen P.; Peters, Wouter; Pongratz, Julia; Sitch, Stephen (2021-11-04). "Global Carbon Budget 2021". Earth System Science Data Discussions. 14 (4): 1917–2005. doi:10.5194/essd-2021-386. ISSN 1866-3508.
  18. ^ "Land use and forestry regulation for 2021-2030". Climate Action - European Commission. 2016-11-23. Retrieved 2020-04-06.
  19. ^ Kaiguang, Zhao; Jackson, Robert B. (2014). "Biophysical forcings of land‐use changes from potential forestry activities in North America" (PDF). Ecological Monographs. 84 (2): 329-353. doi:10.1890/12-1705.1.
  20. ^ Laux, Patrick (2016). "How many RCM ensemble members provide confidence in the impact of land-use land cover change?" (PDF). International Journal of Climatology. 37 (4): 2080–2100. doi:10.1002/joc.4836.
  21. ^ a b Winkler, Karina; Fuchs, Richard; Rounsevell, Mark; Herold, Martin (2021-05-11). "Global land use changes are four times greater than previously estimated". Nature Communications. 12 (1): 2501. Bibcode:2021NatCo..12.2501W. doi:10.1038/s41467-021-22702-2. ISSN 2041-1723. PMC 8113269. PMID 33976120. Available under CC BY 4.0.
  22. ^ "Nearly a fifth of Earth's surface transformed since 1960". Retrieved 13 June 2021.
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  24. ^ "5. Improving Data Collection across the Health Care System". Retrieved 2023-10-19.