Agricultural land, for its part, is dwindling most significantly in China, India and northern Africa. And population growth is fastest in India and sub-Saharan Africa. The land-use changes are directly related.

The link between land-use change and population growth

First of all, urbanisation invariably leads to direct intervention in ecosystems at the expense of agriculturally valuable land. Yet the loss of land to urbanisation is, as such, less worrisome than the fact that this involves the loss of the world’s most productive agricultural areas. For example, because of Cairo’s expansion into the Nile Delta, Egypt is increasingly reliant on food imports.

Secondly, changing lifestyles as well as increasing population growth is putting pressure in particular on ecosystems at the broader peripheries of densely-populated areas. One example is the savannah in West Africa, where rural population growth is accompanied by an increasing agricultural output.

Third, the researchers observe that interventions in ecosystems are driven by global causes.