Land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) all have impacts on the global carbon cycle and as such these activities can add or remove carbon dioxide (or, more generally, carbon) from the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. LULUCF has been the subject of two major reports by the IPCC. Additionally, land use is of critical importance for biodiversity.

Climatic impacts of land-use, land-use change and forestryEdit

GHG per capita 2000

Per capita greenhouse gas emissions by country including land-use change

Land-use change is a large source of CO2 and is thus an important contributor to climate change. 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.[1]

IPCC also states that from 1850 to 1998, about 136 (+ 55) Gt carbon has been emitted as a result of land-use change, predominantly from forest ecosystems. For comparison, 270 (+ 30) Gt carbon has been emitted as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from fossil fuel burning and cement production[2].

Land use and biodiversityEdit

File:GHG per capita 2000 no LUC.svg

The extent, and type of land use directly affects wildlife habitat and thereby impacts local and global biodiversity. Human alteration of landscapes from natural vegetation (e.g. wilderness) to any other use typically results in habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation, all of which can have devastating effects on biodiversity. Land conversion is the single greatest cause of extinction of terrestrial species[1].

Of particular concern is deforestation, where logging or burning are followed by the conversion of the land to agriculture or other land uses. Even if some forests are left standing, the resulting fragmented landscape typically fails to support many species that previously existed there.


  1. Bierregaard, Richard; Claude Gascon, Thomas E. Lovejoy, and Rita Mesquita (eds.) (2001). Lessons from Amazonia: The Ecology and Conservation of a Fragmented Forest. ISBN 0300084838.