This last week has been busy with numerous evidence syntheses highlighting that location, location, location and land use patterns are critical issues.
(1) ‘North American diets require more lands than we have’ was published in PLOS ONE and discussed widely. A compelling map of land spared showed little remains.
(2) On the other side of the coin, retiring lands because of water regulations, limitations, and drought are an opportunity for conservation and restoration was published in Ecosphere. Tools mapped for California studying three endangered animal species highlighted that we do know enough to begin to make evidence-based decisions for strategic retirement.
(3) A compelling map of how America uses land was published at Bloomberg.
(4) Hydraulic fracking is now being considered in the region used a case study for the retired land synthesis in #2 listed above including a map of proposed lands open for leasing.
(a) Scientific synthesis rapidly advances the big picture and both different synthesis tools (maps, systematic reviews, and ideally meta-analyses too) and syntheses with different purposes facilitate a more balanced weighting of issues. Even better, reproducible syntheses provided by different sets of stakeholders would elevate discussion and decision making.
(b) Agriculture, restoration, and energy development (both sustainable and non) must be better balanced through contrasted, transparently aggregated evidence.
(c) The ecological services and functions we get from lands ‘for free’ are precarious and precious.
(d) Whilst we cannot ignore human needs (and their likelihood of continued increases), it is hard not to imagine that a buffer for other living creatures should also be factored into proposed land use trajectories.
(e) Ecology, socioeconomics, and other fields need to much more rapidly crunch current evidence because the clock is ticking.