Dataset for the study "Exploring the biogeophysical limits of global food production under different climate change scenarios"
An adapted Earth system model is used to investigate the limitations that future climate and water availability im-
pose on the potential expansion and productivity of croplands. The model maximizes the cropland area under prevailing climate
conditions and accounts for an optimized, sustainable irrigation practice, thus allowing to consider the two-way feedback be-
tween climate and agriculture. For three green house gas concentration scenarios (RCP2.6,RCP4.5,RCP8.5), we show that the
total cropland area could be extended substantially throughout the 21st century, especially in South America and sub-Saharan
Africa, where the rising water demand resulting from increasing temperatures can largely be met by increasing precipitation
and irrigation rates. When accounting for the CO2 fertilization effect, only few agricultural areas have to be abandoned owing
to declines in productivity, while increasing temperatures allow to expand croplands even into high northern latitudes. Without
the CO2 fertilization effect there is no increase in the overall cropland fraction during the second half of the century but areal
losses in increasingly water-stressed regions can be compensated by an expansion in regions that were previously too cold.
However, global yields are more sensitive and, without the benefits of CO2 fertilization, they may decrease when green house
gas concentrations exceed the RCP4.5 scenario. For certain regions the situation is even more concerning and guaranteeing
food security in dry areas in Northern Africa, the Middle East and South Asia will become increasingly difficult, even for the
idealized scenarios investigated in this study.