Upon first inspection, ethanol derived from sugarcane and bagasse appears to be the perfect solution for current mid-scale, mid-term energy needs. Requiring little fossil fuel input, sugarcane cultivation and its conversion into ethanol release minimal amounts of carbon dioxide, presenting a great advantage over oil, with respect to climate change. It is renewable, as well, and can be expanded, unlike hydroelectric damming. In Estado do Sao Paulo, Brazil, sugarcane plantations have been expanding exponentially over the past decade.
Agricultural Expansion / Abandonment
Indonesia and Malaysia may be distinct political and cultural entities, but they are both undergoing the same process of LCLUC - namely that of agricultural expansion vis-à-vis oil palm plantation extensification. The conversion to oil palm plantations in this region constitutes not only large-scale deforestation but also a total destruction of peat forests both of which are important stores of carbon.
With respect to agriculture, land use generally changes in one of two directions: expansion or abandonment. The current global trend is one of expansion, however, there are a few key regions in which political,economic, social, and cultural changes are triggering cropland abandonment. This process is particularly marked in those post-Socialist countries of Eastern Europe including Poland, Ukraine, Slovakia, Romania, and Albania, although the latter two are the focus here. These nations have over the past two decades been integrated into a market economy.
Agricultural expansion has been eating away at the Amazon rainforest in Mato Grosso for many years. While loggers, subsistence farmers, and cattle ranchers have been major causes of this loss in forest cover, the recent intensification and mechanization of agriculture due to rapidly rising demand for soybeans has accelerated the amount of farmland expansion. Current government policy and high demand for soybeans mean agricultural expansion will continue to accelerate into the foreseeable future.
Agricultural land in the United States, generally that which is corn producing, is being converted on a large scale from food to biofuel production. Originally envisioned as a greener substitute for traditional fossil fuels, recent research has shown that biofuels actually have a larger carbon footprint than previously thought. Additionally, the reduction of American corn used for food has increased the price of food worldwide. The United States government continues to support increased biofuel production for national security reasons and to help sustain American agriculture.
Agricultural expansion in Coastal Eastern Africa is resulting in primary vegetation loss and fragmentation. This area is home to numerous endemic species, which are extremely susceptible to habitat loss, in this case, land cover conversion for agriculture. With the current increase in population and influx of commercial agricultural prospects, the land degradation and fragmentation in the name of agricultural expansion for food will continue to threaten the region's biodiversity.
The rising global demand for soy products has placed increasing pressure on producers to cultivate more soybeans as well as make soy cultivation more profitable for investors. For Argentina, one of the world's leading producers of soybeans, the only lands left for agricultural conversion are marginal lands, such as arid regions and forests. Recent advances in technology, as well as current environmental changes have made it possible to cultivate soy in areas that were once considered undesirable for agriculture. One of these regions is the Chaco forest.
Recently, Syria, a country that previously was a major grain exporter in the Middle East, has been dealing with a drought that has lasted over three years. This lack of rainfall has exacerbated continuing issues of water mismanagement and shrinking river flow due to upstream damming. This extreme limitation on water has caused crops to fail in a country where agriculture plays a major role in the economy. The water situation is causing farmers to abandon their land at such a rate that the crop output has shrunk to the point that Syria must import grain to feed their population.
Following the end of the Second World War, agriculture expanded and intensified rapidly in Europe. Today, agriculture is nearly 50% of the land used in the 27 European Union states (Stoate, et al., 2009), and continues to intensify in some areas. However, the breakup of the Soviet Union added the opposing dynamic of land abandonment of the large collectivized farms, which were just as intensive as Western Europe until their privatization in the 1990s (Václavík & Rogan, 2009). The future of European agriculture is not entirely clear, but points towards a gradual abandoning overall.