Skip to main content
Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2017

Agriculture production as a major driver of the Earth system exceeding planetary boundaries

Campbell, Bruce M.; Beare, Douglas J.; Bennett, Elena M.; Hall-Spencer, Jason M.; Ingram, John S. I.; Jaramillo, Fernando; Ortiz, Rodomiro; Ramankutty, Navin; Sayer, Jeffrey A.; Shindell, Drew


We explore the role of agriculture in destabilizing the Earth system at the planetary scale, through examining nine planetary boundaries, or "safe limits": land-system change, freshwater use, biogeochemical flows, biosphere integrity, climate change, ocean acidification, stratospheric ozone depletion, atmospheric aerosol loading, and introduction of novel entities. Two planetary boundaries have been fully transgressed, i.e., are at high risk, biosphere integrity and biogeochemical flows, and agriculture has been the major driver of the transgression. Three are in a zone of uncertainty i.e., at increasing risk, with agriculture the major driver of two of those, land-system change and freshwater use, and a significant contributor to the third, climate change. Agriculture is also a significant or major contributor to change for many of those planetary boundaries still in the safe zone. To reduce the role of agriculture in transgressing planetary boundaries, many interventions will be needed, including those in broader food systems.


aerosol loading; biogeochemical flows; biosphere integrity; chemical pollution; climate change; diversity; freshwater; land-system change; nitrogen; ocean acidification; ozone depletion; phosphorous

Published in

Ecology and Society
2017, volume: 22, number: 4, article number: 8

Authors' information

Campbell, Bruce M.
International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)
Beare, Douglas J.
International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)
Bennett, Elena M
McGill University
Hall-Spencer, Jason M.
University of Plymouth
Ingram, John S. I.
University of Oxford
Jaramillo, Fernando
Stockholm Resilience Centre
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Plant Breeding
Ramankutty, Navin
University of British Columbia
Sayer, Jeffrey A.
James Cook University
Shindell, Drew
Duke University

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG2 Zero hunger

UKÄ Subject classification

Agricultural Science
Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

Publication Identifiers


URI (permanent link to this page)