The menace of land degradation threatens 3.2 billion people | Sunday Observer

The menace of land degradation threatens 3.2 billion people

20 May, 2018

TORONTO | MEDELLIN, Colombia (IDN) – Deteriorating land degradation caused by human activities is menacing the well-being of the world’s 3.2 billion people, driving species to extinction, escalating climate change, triggering mass human migration and whetting conflict, according to an evidence-based assessment of land degradation and restoration.

The perils of land degradation, which cost the equivalent of about 10% of the global annual gross product in 2010 through the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services, are spelt out for policymakers in the report produced by the 129-member Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The report, comprising a catalogue of corrective options, was approved at the 6th session of the IPBES Plenary in Medellín, Colombia, concluded on 24 March 2018.

The report drawing on more than 3,000 scientific, Government, indigenous and local knowledge sources avers providing “the best-available evidence for policymakers to make better-informed decisions”. According to a media release, it was extensively peer-reviewed, and improved by more than 7,300 comments, received from over 200 external reviewers, authors of the report state.

Speedy expansion and unsustainable management of croplands and grazing lands is the most extensive global direct driver of land degradation, causing significant loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services – food security, water purification, the provision of energy and other contributions of nature essential to people. This has reached ‘critical’ levels in many parts of the world, the report says.

“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,” said Prof. Robert Scholes (South Africa), co-chair of the assessment with Dr. Luca Montanarella (Italy).

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, he added.

According to the authors, land degradation manifests in many ways: land abandonment, declining populations of wild species, loss of soil and soil health, rangelands and fresh water, as well as deforestation.

Underlying drivers of land degradation, says the report, are the high-consumption lifestyles in the most developed economies, combined with rising consumption in developing and emerging economies. High and rising per capita consumption, amplified by continued population growth in many parts of the world, can drive unsustainable levels of agricultural expansion, natural resource and mineral extraction, and urbanization – typically leading to greater levels of land degradation.

“Through this report, the global community of experts has delivered a frank and urgent warning, with clear options to address dire environmental damage,” said Sir Robert Watson, Chair of IPBES. Land degradation, biodiversity loss and climate ch ange are three different faces of the same central challenge: the increasingly dangerous impact of our choices on the health of our natural environment. Each deserves the highest priority and must be addressed together, IPBES Chair said.

The IPBES report finds that land degradation is a major contributor to climate change, with deforestation alone contributing about 10% of all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions. Another major driver of the changing climate has been the release of carbon previously stored in the soil, with land degradation between 2000 and 2009 responsible for annual global emissions of up to 4.4 billion tonnes of CO2.

– Third World Network Features.