The Human Niche

When Thomas Malthus wrote his book “An Essay on the Principle of Population,” in 1798, there were less than a billion people on the planet. Today, two hundred years later, the global population has grown to 7.6 billion, and the 21st century is projected to see continued population growth to 12 – 14 billion by 2100.

These extra billions (and the changing food preferences of a richer world) will require substantial increases in food production and a vast expansion of modern agriculture. However, the conversion of additional land to agriculture is associated with a number of negative externalities, and thus efforts to achieve the objective of food security may compete with other goals related to climate change mitigation and the conservation of biodiversity.

The aim of this project is to analyse the sustainability of the continued expansion of the human niche due to the continued conversion of lands to food production, and to investigate the tradeoffs implied by the need to manage global land use in the context of rapid population growth, loss of biodiversity, and climate change.