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Friday Eye Candy: 300 Years of Land Use Transformation
David Montgomery shares the findings of research led by Erle Ellis, a researcher at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
According to Montgomery, Earle and team's results show startling changes:
Three centuries ago, humans were intensely using just around 5 percent of the planet, with nearly half the world’s land effectively wild. Today, more than half of Earth’s land is occupied by agriculture or human settlements.
Earle is quoted in the article saying that climate change will someday surpass land use as the "dominant shaper of ecology in the terrestrial real." But presently and for the last several hundred years, it's been land use.
The research is supplemented by a map that shows the transformation of human land use since 1700:
Even with only one snapshot per century, the animation makes some of the trends obvious," writes Montgomery. "Large swathes of Russia and the United States become cropland over the 19th century, while livestock occupies increasing amounts of previously semi-wild land in Africa and Asia.
The maps included in the article illustrate the history of land uses on the entirety of the earth's landmass, urban and village uses, and the history of land uses in Europe.