Actively cultivated and abandoned terraces in Nepal. Photo: Suresh Chaudhari

Agricultural Land Abandonment as a Global Land-Use Change Phenomenon

Short Description

The world is facing a looming scarcity of land necessary to secure agricultural commodities production and experience competition from other land uses. At the same time, evidence shows agricultural land abandonment is a global land change process with a recent spread of abandonment in the Global South. Research on agricultural land abandonment is disproportional compared to other land change processes, such as deforestation and agricultural expansion. At the same time, agricultural land abandonment has strong implications to the environment and societal well-being, including food sequrity. There are many challenges to understand the agricultural land abandonment process stemming from the fuzzy definition of abandonment, the ability to measure abandonment patterns, the diversity of factors driving agricultural land abandonment, and its environmental consequences.

Through seminars, thematic workshops, reports, and research papers, our working group will advance understanding agricultural land abandonment process, namely, but not exclusively:

  1. role of individual decision-making and behavioral mechanisms regarding agricultural land abandonment;
  2. progressing on mapping agricultural land abandonment;
  3. the role of rural-urban transition in the relationship to abandonment;
  4. an alternative to agriculture reuse of formerly cultivated lands;
  5. policies to mitigate, but also foster retirement of cultivated lands;
  6. environmental  and societal impacts of agricultural land abandonment, including food sequrity;
  7. agricultural land abandonment - food security interlinks.

Goals and Objectives

The main goal of the group is to understand better the patterns, underling causes, and implications of land abandonment in the connection to sustainable land use. Through various research, education and practical activities, we aim to:

  • strengthen understanding of the global land abandonment drivers and patterns, especially in the Global South;
  • assess the implications of abandonment on the environment and the societal well-being in the era of telecoupled global systems;
  • synthesize the existing knowledge on the abandonment process;
  • engage the land system science community in studying abandonment and evaluating implications from different perspectives.


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The organizers and several participants of a recent Working Group Meet & Greet put together this blog post summarizing the discussions held during the event. Although it will take time to make sense of the myriad changes the COVID-19 pandemic has brought and continues to bring into their lives as scientists, and into the socio-ecological land systems that they study, they identified several likely patterns of long-term change.   Read full post

Related Information


August 2, 2021

Based on their analysis of the complex and interacting drivers of forest change in the Himalayas, the authors highlight five thematic focus areas to curtail forest loss and promote recovery in this article in Global Environmental Change.

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February 2, 2021

In this paper in One Earth the authors show that using deviations from a model of cropland extent in 1992 built on all available data improves models of recent (1992–2015) cropland expansion over and above using the best available existing data.

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January 28, 2021

We are pleased to announce three new GLP Working Groups that launched at the start of 2021. They are: Agricultural Land Abandonment as a Global Land-use Change Phenomenon, Global Dryland Socio-Ecological Systems and Remittance Dynamics and Land Change. If these topics are of interest to you, please join one or more of the WGs today.

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January - March 2021

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