New World Atlas Of Desertification Shows Unprecedented Pressure On Natural Resources

29 Jun 2018 by OOSKAnews Correspondent
BRUSSELS, Belgium

The European Commission's science and knowledge service, The Joint Research Center, has published a new edition of the World Atlas of Desertification, offering a tool for decision makers to improve local responses to soil loss and land degradation.

The Atlas provides a comprehensive, evidence-based assessment of land degradation at a global level and highlights the urgency to adopt corrective measures, providing examples of how human activity drives species to extinction, threatens food security, intensifies climate change and leads to people being displaced from their homes. 

The main findings show that population growth and changes in our consumption patterns put unprecedented pressure on the planet's natural resources.

The Atlas provides examples of how human activity drives species to extinction, threatens food security, intensifies climate change and leads to people being displaced from their homes.

The main findings show that population growth and changes in our consumption patterns put unprecedented pressure on the planet's natural resources:

  • Over 75% of the Earth's land area is already degraded, and over 90% could become degraded by 2050.
  • Globally, a total area half of the size of the European Union (4.18 million km²) is degraded annually, with Africa and Asia being the most affected.
  • The economic cost of soil degradation for the EU is estimated to be in the order of tens of billions of euros annually.
  • Land degradation and climate change are estimated to lead to a reduction of global crop yields by about 10% by 2050. Most of this will occur in India, China and sub-Saharan Africa, where land degradation could halve crop production.
  • As a consequence of accelerated deforestation it will become more difficult to mitigate the effects of climate change
  • By 2050, up to 700 million people are estimated to have been displaced due to issues linked to scarce land resources. The figure could reach up to 10 billion by the end of this century.
  • While land degradation is a global problem, it takes place locally and requires local solutions. Greater commitment and more effective cooperation at the local level are necessary to stop land degradation and loss of biodiversity.
  • Further agricultural expansion, one of the main causes of land degradation, could be limited by increasing yields on existing farmland, shifting to plant-based diets, consuming animal proteins from sustainable sources and reducing food loss and waste. 

The Atlas gives an overview of the underlying causes of degradation worldwide. It also contains a large number of facts, forecasts and global datasets that can be used to identify important biophysical and socio-economic processes that, on their own or combined, can lead to unsustainable land use and land degradation.