Global Maps of Agricultural Expansion Potential at a 300 m Resolution

Čengić, Mirza; Steinmann, Zoran J.N.; Defourny, Pierre; Doelman, Jonathan C.; Lamarche, Céline; Stehfest, Elke; Schipper, Aafke M.; Huijbregts, Mark A.J.


The global expansion of agricultural land is a leading driver of climate change and biodiversity loss. However, the spatial resolution of current global land change models is relatively coarse, which limits environmental impact assessments. To address this issue, we developed global maps representing the potential for conversion into agricultural land at a resolution of 10 arc-seconds (approximately 300 m at the equator). We created the maps using artificial neural network (ANN) models relating locations of recent past conversions (2007–2020) into one of three cropland categories (cropland only, mosaics with >50% crops, and mosaics with <50% crops) to various predictor variables reflecting topography, climate, soil, and accessibility. Cross-validation of the models indicated good performance with area under the curve (AUC) values of 0.88–0.93. Hindcasting of the models from 1992 to 2006 revealed a similar high performance (AUC of 0.83–0.91), indicating that our maps provide representative estimates of current agricultural conversion potential provided that the drivers underlying agricultural expansion patterns remain the same. Our maps can be used to downscale projections of global land change models to more fine-grained patterns of future agricultural expansion, which is an asset for global environmental assessments.