Energy matters: Mitigating the impacts of future land expansion will require managing energy and extractive footprints

Justin A. Johnson, Christina M. Kennedy, James R. Oakleaf, Sharon Baruch-Mordo, Stephen Polasky, Joseph Kiesecker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Understanding potential future patterns of human-induced land-use and land-cover change is critical to assessing and proactively managing the tradeoffs between development and the environment. Most global land-use change assessments, however, consider a narrow set of economic sectors, focusing primarily on agricultural and urban sectors. We present a global land-use change model that includes detailed energy and mining sectors (11 in total) in addition to agriculture and urban sectors. We find that energy and extractive sectors had a large expansion footprint (1.26 million km2) projected to 2050, which was nearly as large as the cropland expansion footprint (1.54 million km2) and larger than the urban expansion footprint (0.34 million km2). Moreover, energy and mining expansion account for nearly 80% of all projected expansion into the world's most intact natural lands, suggesting that these sectors play an outsized role in threats to biodiversity and environmental protection. Additionally, we find substantial shifts in the ranking of countries in relation to their vulnerability of land conversion when we accounted for energy and mining footprints alongside agricultural and urban footprints. Our results suggest that meeting resource demands, while maintaining social and environmental benefits provided by natural systems, will require reducing consumption and increasing efficiency in resource use alongside improved development siting and mitigation practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107106
JournalEcological Economics
StatePublished - Sep 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by The Nature Conservancy , MacArthur Foundation , Doris Duke Foundation, The Robertson Foundation , donation from Roy Vagelos, and the 3 M Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors


  • Energy sprawl
  • Environmental mitigation
  • Fossil-fuel energy
  • Land-use change
  • Renewable energy
  • Spatial optimization
  • Sustainability


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