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Publication | 2024

Telecoupled impacts of the Russia–Ukraine war on global cropland expansion and biodiversity

The Russia–Ukraine War is impacting global food systems, which may trigger global cropland expansion and consequently lead to biodiversity loss far from war zones. To quantify such impacts on biodiversity, we simulated the global cropland expansion provoked by the reshaping of international virtual cropland flows under different war scenarios and conducted a biodiversity impact assessment. The results indicate that, in the baseline situation (33.57% reduction in Ukraine’s exports), the war would result in an additional 8.48 Mha of cropland expansion compared with the ‘no war’ scenario. This cropland expansion would impact biodiversity most in countries such as the United States, Spain, France, India and Brazil. The cessation of Russia’s participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative would lead to a doubling of cropland expansion and biodiversity loss compared with the baseline situation. If the conflict deteriorates further, that is, no exports from Russia and Ukraine, cropland expansion and biodiversity loss would increase by up to 2.9 and 4.5 times, respectively. These findings highlight the need for proactive measures to mitigate the impact of this war on biodiversity and suggest that actions to implement the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework should take into account the potential impacts of conflicts on biodiversity.