What is sustainable intensification? Views from experts

Brian Petersen, Sieglinde Snapp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

204 Scopus citations


One of the grand challenges facing society today is how to feed a growing global population while at the same time minimizing the impact on the environment. Recent initiatives by the United States Agency for International Development and the United Nations suggest "sustainable intensification" as the most appropriate means to use land in order to increase food supplies while protecting biodiversity and ecosystem processes. However, it remains unclear what sustainable intensification entails and what it means to those working on this grand challenge. This study draws from 30 interviews with agricultural experts to assess their perceptions of sustainable intensification. Results show that the term is not uniformly understood and the majority of respondents do not see it as a significant departure from current agricultural practices. Concerns included the vague nature of the term 'sustainable' and insufficient attention to relying on biological processes to support environmentally friendly production systems. These findings suggest that the term sustainable intensification needs to be defined and used carefully in terms of land use programs and policies. The paper concludes by exploring 'ecological intensification' as an alternative concept proposed to guide the management of agricultural systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalLand Use Policy
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Ecological intensification
  • Sustainable agriculture
  • Sustainable intensification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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