National Aeronautics and Space Administration


Date of this Version



Published in PNAS, November 16, 2010, vol. 107, no. 46, 19627–19632


Increasing food production and mitigating climate change are two primary but seemingly contradictory objectives for tropical landscapes. This special feature examines synergies and trade-offs among these objectives. Four themes emerge from the papers: the important roles of both forest and agriculture sectors for climate mitigation in tropical countries; the minor contribution from deforestation-related agricultural expansion to overall food production at global and continental scales; the opportunities for synergies between improved food production and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions through diversion of agricultural expansion to already-cleared lands, improved soil, crop, and livestock management, and agroforestry; and the need for targeted policy and management interventions to make these synergistic opportunities a reality. We conclude that agricultural intensification is a key factor to meet dual objectives of food production and climate mitigation, but there is no single panacea for balancing these objectives in all tropical landscapes. Place-specific strategies for sustainable land use emerge from assessments of current land use, demographics, and other biophysical and socioeconomic characteristics, using a whole-landscape, multisector perspective.