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Land degradation threatens 1.5 billion people

Posted by terres on July 2, 2008

Accelerated land degradation threatens food security of a quarter of the world’s population: FAO

“An estimated 1.5 billion people, or a quarter of the world’s population, depend directly on land that is being degraded,” FAO said.

Land degradation affects

  • More than 20 percent of all cultivated areas.
  • About 30 percent of forests.
  • At least 10 percent of grasslands.

Land erosion leads to

  • Desertification
  • Reduced productivity
  • Mass migration
  • Food insecurity
  • Irreversible damage to natural resources
  • Collapse of ecosystems
  • Loss of biodiversity
  • Increase in emission of GHG

“The loss of biomass and soil organic matter releases carbon into the atmosphere and affects the quality of soil and its ability to hold water and nutrients,” said director of FAO’s Land and Water Division.

[Note: for more accurate land statistics see: Topsoil]


Severe soil erosion in a wheat field near Washington State University, USA.

Natural Resources Conservation Service on Desertification:

Desertification is land degradation occurring in the arid, semiarid and dry subhumid areas of the world. These susceptible drylands cover 40 percent of the earth’s surface and puts at risk more than 1 billion people who are dependent on these lands for survival.


Landsat image of sand dunes advancing on Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania.

  • The Major Causes:
    • Land clearing and deforestation
    • Agricultural mining of soil nutrients
    • Urban conversion
    • Irrigation
    • Pollution
  • The Major Stresses:
    • accelerated erosion by wind and water
    • removal of nutrients
    • acidity increase
    • salination
    • alkalinization
    • destruction of soil structure
    • loss of organic matter

Severe land degradation decreases the wealth and economic development of nations and is directly liked to poverty. When the land resource base becomes less productive, food security is compromised and competition for dwindling resources increases, the seeds of potential conflict are sown.

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