Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences - Biogeography

Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences | Geography Department | Biogeography | News | New study reveals the changes in GHG emissions after the collapse of the Soviet Union

New study reveals the changes in GHG emissions after the collapse of the Soviet Union

 

Florian Schierhorn, Thomas Kastner, Tobias Kuemmerle, Patrick Meyfroidt, Irina Kurganova, Alexander V. Prishchepov, Karl-Heinz Erb, Richard A. Houghton, Daniel Müller

 

Summary: The effects of the collapse of the Soviet Union on GHG emissions was unclear until now. In our new study, we estimated that the changes in food production, food trade, and cropland extend in the 15 countries of the former Soviet Union (Russia, Ukraine etc.) resulted in a massive net reduction of GHG emissions. For comparison, this reduction corresponds to one quarter of the CO2 emissions from deforestation in Latin America from 1991 to 2011. The reduction was mainly driven by the decreasing beef consumption and carbon sequestration in soils on abandoned cropland in the former Soviet Union. Our study is part of a special issue on Leakage published in Environmental Research Letters.

 

Abstract: As the global food system contributes significantly to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, understanding the sources of GHG emissions embodied in different components of food systems is important. The collapse of the Soviet Union triggered a massive restructuring of the domestic food systems, namely declining consumption of animal products, cropland abandonment, and a major restructuring of agricultural trade. However, how these complex changes have affected global GHG emissions is uncertain. Here, we quantified the net GHG emissions associated with changes in the former Soviet Union’s food systems. Changes in food production, consumption, and trade together resulted in a net emissions reduction of 7.61 Gt carbon dioxide equivalents from 1992 to 2011. For comparison, this corresponds to one quarter of the CO2 emissions from deforestation in Latin America from 1991 to 2011. The key drivers of the emissions reductions were the decreasing beef consumption in the 1990s, increasing beef imports after 2000, mainly from South America, and carbon sequestration in soils on abandoned cropland. Ongoing transformations of the food systems in the former Soviet Union, however, suggest emissions will likely rebound. The results highlight the importance of considering agricultural production, land-use change, trade, and consumption when assessing countries emissions portfolios. Moreover, we demonstrated how emissions reductions that originate from a reduction in the extent and intensity of agricultural production can be compromised by increasing emissions embodied in rising imports of agricultural commodities.

 

Link to the manuscript:https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ab1cf1

 

Citation: Schierhorn, F., Kastner, T., Kuemmerle, T., Meyfroidt, P., Kurganova, I., Prishchepov, A., Erb, K.-H., Houghton, R., Müller, D, (2019) Large greenhouse gas savings due to changes in the post-Soviet food systems. Environmental Research Letters (2019).

 

Photo:Eugene Chernetsov, Fotolia