Livestock Transitions: Financial implications of global land sharing and sparing potentials

Dr Yiorgos Vittis and Dr Michael Obersteiner


Agricultural activity and the continuous croplands expansion at global scales exert a wide range of pressures on natural ecosystems and is expected to continue with increasing world population and upscale demand. The debate of land sharing versus land sparing has emerged assessing balances between biodiversity conservation and high-yield agriculture. In land sparing, agricultural systems are intensified and thus, disputes have emerged suggesting trade-off relationships between productivity and socioeconomic goals as well as environmental conservation or the necessity of demand-side adjustments to meet food security goals.

Our research develops a global costing and investment model to test the basic hypothesis that production of agricultural commodities in land sharing and sparing scenarios is less costly than in current agricultural practices at global scales. Through a bottom-up approach we gather physical and financial information for agricultural systems from inventory data, scientific literature as well as data surveys. Thereafter, we develop a cost accounting framework that disaggregates agricultural revenues in a range of financial elements to understand the composition of cost functions of various crop and livestock commodities. Such an approach enables us to increase the understanding of the economic drivers of policy implementation towards sharing versus sparing scenarios and to provide intelligence on agricultural systems transitions.