Agricultural land use and economic growth: environmental implications of the Kuznets curve
The expansion of agricultural land use has been associated with the loss of environmental amenities, such as biological diversity, ecosystem services, and aesthetic values. Here, the determinants of agricultural land use are examined, drawing on panel data from 121 countries over the period 1965–1987. The analysis finds that an inverted U curve (or 'environmental Kuznets curve') describes the relationship of agricultural land use and per capita income. Turning points in cropland use at $1540 in per capita income and at $957 for pastureland use are identified, after which further economic development is correlated with a gradual retirement of agricultural land. The pattern varies somewhat by geographic region. Also, crop yields are found to be negatively correlated with agricultural land use; population density and ownership security are positively associated with agricultural land use; and trade variables show no clear pattern. These results suggest an environmental dilemma. Although economic growth and yield intensification can lead to a reduction in agricultural land use, these forces may also increase environmental degradation within the agricultural sector.
Keywords: agriculture, biodiversity, economic growth, environmental Kuznets curve, land use