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Environmental Impacts of Agriculture

  • By: Robert A. Dull
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Global environmental systems have been profoundly affected by agriculture throughout the Holocene epoch, but these impacts have been especially pronounced since the Green Revolution began around 1945. The environmental effects of food production include alterations of the Earth's hydrologic cycle, increasing levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases, decreased biodiversity, accelerated rates of soil erosion, and the rapid spread of eutrophication in freshwater and marine ecosystems.

The Agricultural Revolution

Crop plants were first domesticated around 10,000 yrs. (years) ago, when centers of crop domestication emerged independently in the Eastern Mediterranean, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. The three staple grains that today account for more than 60% of all caloric intake—wheat, rice, and corn—were all domesticated by ca. 7,000 yrs. BP (before present). However, the domestication events themselves were ...

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