The SIGMA project provides EU support to the international GEOGLAM (Group on Earth Observations Global Agricultural Monitoring) initiative, which together will strengthen the international community’s capacity to produce and disseminate relevant, timely and accurate forecasts of agricultural production at national, regional and global scales using Earth Observation.
Agriculture’s capacity to feed the world is being threatened by a combination of existing and emerging trends and challenges. Global population has grown from about 2.5 billion in 1950 to more than 7 billion in 2012 and is projected to reach more than 9 billion by 2050. To achieve food for all, global food production will need to grow by 70% and up to 100% in developing countries, according to FAO. The SIGMA project’s main challenge is, therefore, to develop innovative methods and indicators to monitor and assess progress towards sustainable agriculture, focused on the assessment of longer term impacts of agricultural dynamics on the environment and vice versa. To meet this challenge, SIGMA has three main objectives. The first is to identify, map and assess agriculture and crop land changes, globally, regionally and locally, the second is to carry out the same tasks but for assessment of changes in agricultural production levels and shifts in cultivation practices while the third focuses on the assessment of the environmental impacts of agriculture and cultivation practices.
IIASA researchers are involved in a number of different aspects of the SIGMA project. They lead the main task of carrying out the environmental impact assessment on agricultural production in the future. Using the GLOBIOM model and the best possible spatial baseline information on cropland, GLOBIOM will be used to examine the effects of different scenarios of agricultural intensification and expansion on biodiversity, nutrient balances (nitrogen and phosphorus), greenhouse gas emissions and agricultural water use in the future.