Net primary production (NPP) is the principal source of energy for ecosystems and, by extension, human populations that depend on them. The relationship between the supply and demand of NPP is important for the assessment of socio-ecological vulnerability. We present an analysis of the supply and demand of NPP in the Sahel using NPP estimates from the MODIS sensor and agri-environmental data from FAOSTAT. This synergistic approach allows for a spatially explicit estimation of human impact on ecosystems. We estimated the annual amount of NPP required to derive food, fuel and feed between 2000 and 2010 for 22 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. When comparing annual estimates of supply and demand of NPP, we found that demand increased from 0.44 PgC to 1.13 PgC, representing 19% and 41%, respectively, of available supply due to a 31% increase in the human population between 2000 and 2010. The demand for NPP has been increasing at an annual rate of 2.2% but NPP supply was near-constant with an inter-annual variability of approximately 1.7%. Overall, there were statistically significant (p < 0.05) increases in the NPP of cropland (+6.0%), woodland (+6.1%) and grassland/savanna (+9.4%), and a decrease in the NPP of forests (−0.7%). On the demand side, the largest increase was for food (20.4%) followed by feed (16.7%) and fuel (5.5%). The supply-demand balance of NPP is a potentially important tool from the standpoint of sustainable development, and as an indicator of stresses on the environment stemming from increased consumption of biomass.

Funding: Swedish National Space Board, project: 104/13

Duration: November 2012 - June 2014

Project Output:

  • Presented as a poster (#2850514) at the European Space Agency Living Earth Symposium (2013)
  • Published as a research article in Environmental Research Letters