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Global and regional health and food security under strict conservation scenarios

Abstract

Global biodiversity is rapidly declining, and goals to halt biodiversity loss, such as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, have not been achieved. To avoid further biodiversity loss, area-based protection will form part of new biodiversity targets. We use a state-of-the-art global land-use model, the Land System Modular Model, to explore global and regional human health and food security outcomes under strictly enforced 30% and 50% land protection scenarios. We find protection scenarios cause additional human mortality due to diet- and weight-related changes. Low-income regions such as South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa experience the highest levels of underweight-related mortality, causing an additional 200,000 deaths related to malnutrition in these regions alone. High-income regions, by contrast, are less affected by protection measures. Our results highlight that radical measures to protect areas of biodiversity value may jeopardize food security and human health in the most vulnerable regions of the world.

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Fig. 1: The health effects of protection measures in 2060.
Fig. 2: Regional weight differences in 2060.
Fig. 3: Food price and food spending across world regions.

Data availability

The LandSyMM output data used in this study are available through Zenodo (https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5749706). Food consumption data were accessed through FAOSTAT (https://www.fao.org/faostat/en/);. BMI data were accessed through the WHO global health observatory database (https://www.who.int/gho/database/en/). Disease and mortality data were accessed through the global health data exchange (http://ghdx.healthdata.org/gbd-results-tool).

Code availability

LandSyMM model code is available on request from the authors.

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Acknowledgements

R.C.H., F.W. and P.A. were supported by the UK’s Global Food Security Programme project Resilience of the UK food system to Global Shocks (RUGS, BB/N020707/1). M.J. acknowledges funding from the Nature Map project through Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI). A.A. and M.D.R. acknowledge support through the Helmholtz Association. S.S.R. acknowledges support by the BMBF Germany/ISIPEDIA project. We thank P. Visconti for cross reading the manuscript and contributing to the discussion of the results.

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Contributions

R.C.H., A.A., P.A. and M.D.R. developed the idea. R.C.H., F.W., S.S.R. and M.J. contributed to method development and data analysis. R.C.H. wrote the manuscript and all authors contributed to editing and reviewing the manuscript and approved the final version for submission and publication.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Roslyn C. Henry.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Nature Sustainability thanks Dan Brockington, Julie Zaehringer and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Methods, Results, Figs. 1–7 and Tables 1–6.

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Henry, R.C., Arneth, A., Jung, M. et al. Global and regional health and food security under strict conservation scenarios. Nat Sustain 5, 303–310 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-021-00844-x

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