A recent report by the Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has revealed that land degradation could force millions of people to migrate over the next 30 years.
Land degradation threatens 20% of the world’s population and can have a damaging impact on the global economy.
Land degradation is primarily caused by rapid expansion and unsustainable management of croplands and grazing lands.
Often, land degradation results in a loss of biodiversity, food security, water purification and energy.
Prof. Robert Scholes, co-chair of the assessment commented:
“With negative impacts on the well-being of at least 3.2 billion people, the degradation of the Earth’s land surface through human activities is pushing the planet towards a sixth mass species extinction,”
“Avoiding, reducing and reversing this problem, and restoring degraded land, is an urgent priority to protect the biodiversity and ecosystem services vital to all life on Earth and to ensure human well-being.”
In order to cater to the demands of population growth and rising levels of consumption, agricultural expansion has become increasingly unsustainable.
Crop and grazing lands cover over a third of the earth’s land with forests, grasslands and wetlands frequently being cleared for agricultural purposes.
Sir Robert Watson, Chair of IPBES said:
“Land degradation, biodiversity loss and climate change are three different faces of the same central challenge: the increasingly dangerous impact of our choices on the health of our natural environment. We cannot afford to tackle any one of these three threats in isolation – they each deserve the highest policy priority and must be addressed together.”
The report estimates that within the next 30 years land degradation will force up to 700 million people to migrate. Similarly, by 2050 crop yields are expected to decline between 10% and 50% in some areas.
Land degradation and decreasing productivity has a profound impact on vulnerable societies, with extremely low rainfall being associated with an increase of up to 45% in violent conflict.
The report identifies that policies encouraging sustainable production, improving monitoring and integrating agricultural, forestry, energy, water, infrastructure and service agendas is key to preventing further land degredation.
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