Food supply and bioenergy production within the global cropland planetary boundary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Supplying food for the anticipated global population of over 9 billion in 2050 under changing climate conditions is one of the major challenges of the 21st century. Agricultural expansion and intensification contributes to global environmental change and risks the long-term sustainability of the planet. It has been proposed that no more than 15% of the global ice-free land surface should be converted to cropland. Bioenergy production for land-based climate mitigation places additional pressure on limited land resources. Here we test normative targets of food supply and bioenergy production within the cropland planetary boundary using a global land-use model. The results suggest supplying the global population with adequate food is possible without cropland expansion exceeding the planetary boundary. Yet this requires an increase in food production, especially in developing countries, as well as a decrease in global crop yield gaps. However, under current assumptions of future food requirements, it was not possible to also produce significant amounts of first generation bioenergy without cropland expansion. These results suggest that meeting food and bioenergy demands within the planetary boundaries would need a shift away from current trends, for example, requiring major change in the demand-side of the food system or advancing biotechnologies.


  • R. C. Henry
  • K. Engström
  • S. Olin
  • P. Alexander
  • A. Arneth
  • M. D.A. Rounsevell
External organisations
  • University of Edinburgh
  • Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
  • Scotland’s Rural College
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0194695
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Mar 1
Publication categoryResearch