Category Archives: arable land

The Earth’s Land Use (Cover) Breakdown from the FAO

The FAO has released a new database that summarizes land cover on our lovely planet, drawing from satellite and other types of data resources. Combining the sources of information available to us today in this way has never been done before and will help aid in assessing the future of food production and its sustainability. The database is called “Global Land Cover SHARE database”.

Next, is the general category breakdown from the report. It looks like we’ve paved over .6 percent of the Earth’s land surface. That is quite an Anthropocene feat.

The FAO’s new database includes eleven global land cover layers, and here are the percentages allocated to each one:

artificial surfaces (which cover 0.6 percent of the Earth’s surface)
bare soils (15.2 percent)
croplands (12.6 percent)
grasslands (13.0 percent)
herbaceous vegetation (1.3 percent)
inland water bodies (2.6 percent)
mangroves (0.1 percent)
shrub-covered areas (9.5 percent)
snow and glaciers (9.7 percent)
sparse vegetation (7.7 percent)
tree-covered areas (27.7 percent)


Arable Land Per Person in Various Regions of the World

This chart is from the recent Iowa State AGMRC publication, “Can We Meet the World’s Growing Demand for Food?” by Don Hofstrand. The writing includes many issues related to global food security. Note that South America’s arable land per person value is equal to Sub-Saharan Africa’s. (Also note correction: Middle East and North America should read Middle East and North Africa)

I look forward to Hofstrand’s future writing about how biofuels will and do affect global food security, which he says is coming soon.