Effects of land use change for crops on water and carbon budgets in the Midwest USA

Jian Sun, Tracy E. Twine, Jason Hill, Ryan Noe, Jiancheng Shi, Minmin Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Increasing demand for food and bioenergy has altered the global landscape dramatically in recent years. Land use and land cover change affects the environmental system in many ways through biophysical and biogeochemical mechanisms. In this study, we evaluate the impacts of land use and land cover change driven by recent crop expansion and conversion on the water budget, carbon exchange, and carbon storage in the Midwest USA. A dynamic global vegetation model was used to simulate and examine the impacts of landscape change in a historical case based on crop distribution data from the United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Services. The simulation results indicate that recent crop expansion not only decreased soil carbon sequestration (60 Tg less of soil organic carbon) and net carbon flux into ecosystems (3.7 Tg·year-1 less of net biome productivity), but also lessened water consumption through evapotranspiration (1.04 × 1010 m3·year-1 less) over 12 states in the Midwest. More water yield at the land surface does not necessarily make more water available for vegetation. Crop residue removal might also exacerbate the soil carbon loss.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number225
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2017


  • Agriculture
  • Agro-IBIS
  • Evapotranspiration
  • Land use and land cover change
  • Net biome productivity
  • Soil organic carbon

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