Global agricultural trade and land system sustainability: Implications for ecosystem carbon storage, biodiversity, and human nutrition
Review article, 2021

Global land systems are increasingly shaped by international trade of agricultural products. An increasing number of studies have quantified the implications of agricultural trade for single different aspects of land system sustainability. Bringing together studies across different sustainability dimensions, this review inves-tigates how global agricultural trade flows have affected land systems and resulting impacts on food and nutrient availability, natural habitat conversion, biodiversity loss, and ecosystem carbon storage. We show that the effects of trade on land systems are highly heterogeneous across regions and commodities, revealing both synergies and trade-offs between improved nutrition and environmental conservation. For instance, we find that while the concentration of cereal production in North America has spared land, the increased demand for tropical products induced by trade has negatively impacted tropical ecosystems. Based on the current state of knowledge, we identify six pathways for how future research can contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of how agricultural trade can positively contribute to meeting global sustainability goals.


Thomas Kastner

Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (SBiK-F)

Abhishek Chaudhary

Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur

Simone Gingrich

University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences

Alexandra Marques

PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency

Martin Persson


Giorgio Bidoglio

Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (SBiK-F)

Gaetane Le Provost

Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (SBiK-F)

Florian Schwarzmueller

Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (SBiK-F)


2590-3330 (ISSN) 2590-3322 (eISSN)

Vol. 4 10 1425-1443

Greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss from land use change embodied in international trade of agricultural commodities - a pan-tropical assesement

Formas (2014-1181), 2015-01-01 -- 2019-03-31.

Subject Categories

Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

Environmental Management

Environmental Sciences



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