Land degradation, one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century

Photo credit: RTCC

When land stops being productive, it drives forest clearance (Flickr/CIFOR)

Why restoring degraded land is crucial to the climate

A new UN fund is aiming to cut emissions from bad land management and improve food, energy and water security

By Simone Quatrini and Harald Heubaum

Land is a fundamental natural resource, providing food and livelihoods for billions of people around the world.

Degraded land in Uzbekistan (Flickr/IFPRI -IMAGES) -
Degraded land in Uzbekistan (Flickr/IFPRI -IMAGES) –×337.jpg

Soil and land also play a key role in addressing economic inequality, maintaining biodiversity and combating global climate change. Whether it is forests, grasslands, savannahs or deserts – terrestrial ecosystems are a key to building a more sustainable future.

Yet, land is under threat. Land degradation – the reduction in the quality and productive capacity of land and soil due to extreme weather conditions and human activities such as deforestation, unsustainable agriculture and invasive mining – has quickly becomedation, one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century.

Worldwide, two billion hectares of land are currently degraded – an area larger than South America. Of this, 500 million hectares are abandoned agricultural land.

With an expected global population of 9.5 billion by 2050, land degradation, population pressures and climate change increasingly tax our natural resource base beyond its carrying capacity. Available cropland per person is falling precariously.

With 52% of agricultural land moderately or severely degraded and with more than 12 million hectares lost to production each year; demand projections for crucial resources – especially productive land for food, fuel, fibre and water – outstrip all future scenarios for supply.

Read the full article: RTCC


Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.