Developing next-generation tools to predict the biodiversity impacts of feeding 10 billion people

Developing next-generation tools to predict the biodiversity impacts of feeding 10 billion people

Agriculture must expand and intensify if it is to feed a growing population. Where it does so will profoundly affect the future of biodiversity. We will develop and combine cutting-edge models of agricultural futures and novel assessments of species’ vulnerability and population persistence to predict which regions and species are likely to be most impacted, and hence where policies to mitigate such threats are most urgently needed.

Project Aims

Our aim is to develop the most advanced set of projections yet made of the global biodiversity impacts of future agricultural development. We will estimate the magnitude and location of impacts of future agricultural development on the world’s biodiversity in the coming decades under a number of plausible scenarios, and identify which species, sites of conservation importance and regions may be most impacted under different scenarios. These will be used to inform the development of mitigating policies and other conservation interventions.

Key Activities

We will:

  • generate new global layers of agricultural land cover to 2050 using projections of observations of recent real-world changes, under a number of plausible scenarios
  • intersect these with sites of global conservation importance (protected areas, KBAs etc)
  • develop an improved set of distribution models for all the world’s birds and generate novel measures of impact of agricultural expansion for each species
  • apply area-based metrics using power-law based estimates of the relationship between species’ probability of persistence and population size relative to a pre-human baseline (currently being developed under CCI project CCI-05-20-006)
  • produce global layers of estimated risk for future agricultural development to identify hotspots of future threat under each of five plausible scenarios of change
  • identify hotspots of threat from future agricultural development and assess what policy options exist or are needed to moderate this risk in these regions

Conservation Impact

The project will:

  • ensure that the extinction risks to birds are adequately captured in their IUCN Red List status by assessing the risks posed to all bird species by future agricultural development
  •  feed this information into ongoing processes to reassess their status for the IUCN Red List
  • seek to identify species currently listed as Least Concern that may be at greater risk, and threatened species that may warrant reclassification into higher categories of risk
  • seek to identify sites of conservation importance that may be particularly threatened by future agricultural change
  • guide policy responses to future agricultural change by identifying hotspots of predicted future agriculture-driven extinction risk
  • assess what policy mechanisms are currently in place, or will need to be developed, in those regions to address the problems before they become too severe


The project will generate:

  • The most sophisticated models of future agricultural expansion yet produced
  • Updated threat assessments for each bird species and for all protected areas and KBAs
  • Novel metrics of vulnerability of all bird species to agricultural change
  • Scientific papers presenting these results
  • Non-technical summaries to feed into policy processes

Project Overview

Type: Funded Projects
Theme: Biodiversity and food security, Indicators, monitoring and effectiveness, Towards a green economy
Project code: CCI-05-21-011
Start date: October 1, 2021
Status: Active

Project team

CCI partners Involved

Other Organisations Involved

University of Leeds (Dr David Williams)

University of Oxford (Dr Michael Clark)

Centre for Conservation of Atlantic Forest Birds (Dr Ben Phalan)