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


January 25, 2022

Watch this poetic TEDxGeneva talk in which Stephen Bell brings historical insights of global farmland abandonment, zooms in to studying this process in Spain, and argues about the importance of changing the focus from post-factum abandonment to proactive retirement of lands.

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January 21, 2022
Thursday, January 27, 2022 -
11:00am to 12:00pm

This session will feature Victor Olsen, University of Copenhagen presenting on "The impact of conflict-driven cropland abandonment on food insecurity in South Sudan revealed using satellite remote sensing."

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December 13, 2021

On December 2, 2021, the GLP Agricultural Land Abandonment as a Global Land-Use Change Phenomenon Working Group and GLP European Nodal Office held an introductory webinar and discussion of agricultural land abandonment as a global phenomenon. Watch the recording

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January - March 2021

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