Powered by a $2.2 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Global Landscapes Initiative at the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment is launching a three-year project in collaboration with McGill University to improve understanding of how agriculture and the environment affect each other, and to create tools corporations, conservation organizations and countries can use to can optimize the benefits from both. 

The project is a response to a sobering need to dramatically boost food production to feed 9 billion people by 2050 while also protecting the ecosystems that make life possible. It will use tools developed by GLI to explore how agriculture’s use of land is changing around the world, how these changes affect people and the environment, and how we can strategically guide changes to boost both food security and environmental protection. Specifically, it will:

  • provide detailed information about changes in agricultural area, yields and management over time and around the world and the impacts of these changes on the environment 
  • improve our  ability to predict how changes in climate, fertilizer, irrigation, genetics and other variables affect yield around the world 
  • develop tools for quantifying trade-offs between food production and environmental protection 
  • create strategies for boosting food production in the Amazon basin while protecting biodiversity and other aspects of environmental integrity 
  • produce a Web-based application and other software tools for others to assess and manage the trade-offs of agriculture and the environment.  

“Agriculture has already transformed nearly 40 percent of Earth’s land area, putting the squeeze on the services nonagricultural land provides – biodiversity, clean water, carbon storage, flood control, beauty and more,” said GLI lead researcher Jon Foley, director of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. “By providing the resources needed to take a deep dive into current agricultural practices using GLI-developed databases and analysis tools, the Moore Foundation’s grant will help agriculture ramp up to meet future food needs without further compromising the environment.” 

“With this substantial boost to our funding, we will be able to make a quantum leap in our efforts to understand farming systems around the world,” added McGill University associate professor Navin Ramankutty, primary collaborator on the project. 

“The Global Landscapes Initiative is making some remarkable inroads into addressing the twin challenges of food security and environmental protection,” said Luis Solórzano, program director for environmental science with the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. “We’re pleased to have the opportunity to lend support to this important effort.”  

About the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation 

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, established in 2000, seeks to advance environmental conservation and scientific research around the world and improve the quality of life in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Foundation’s Environmental Conservation Program aims at changing the ways in which people use terrestrial, freshwater, and coastal marine ecosystems to conserve critical ecological systems and functions, while allowing sustainable use. For more information, please visit www.moore.org

About the Global Landscapes Initiative 

The Global Landscapes Initiative is a program of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota. GLI develops and applies technology-based approaches to understand extreme land use changes, improve our ability to balance human needs with environmental stewardship, and promote secure landscapes across the globe. The work here will be done in collaboration with McGill University.


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