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.

GLP Themes: Telecoupling of land use systems, Land-atmosphere processes, Land governance, Land change trade-offs for ecosystem services and biodiversity , Land management systems, Urban-rural interactions, Land use and conflict

GLP Methods: Econometrics, Game Theory, GIS, Institutional Analysis, Integrative Assessments, Interdisciplinary methods, Modelling, Participatory methods, Qualitative social science methods (interviews, observations, document review, surveys), Remote Sensing, Spatial Analysis, Synthesis/meta-analysis/meta-study, Visualization/Scenarios


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Following up on his previous blog post, Zsolt Pinke writes that the drought situation demands an urgent solution to the European agriculture and the recharge of soil moisture. The latest drought map published by the flagship journal of European agronomy draws attention to the most critical areas in Europe, which includes Ukraine, France and other important grain exporters of Central Europe. Post includes a one-minute animation of the July droughts in Europe based on the maps of EDO JRC.   Read full post

Related Information


December 5, 2023

Read a recap of the GLP Land Abandonment Working Group's PhD course held last summer at the University of Copenhagen.

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July 11, 2023

A new Perspective in Science underscores evolving rural abandonment and depopulation and calls for socioecological studies to evaluate and develop approaches beneficial both for biodiversity and rural livelihoods.

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March 10, 2023

A new article in the Journal of Environmental Management took Nanjing County of China as an example and found great suitability of harmonized Landsat 8 and Sentinel-2 images to distinguish multiple trajectories of cropland abandonment in subtropical mountainous areas.

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January - March 2021

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