By Catherine Early | –
( China Dialogue ) – A “crisis footing” is needed to conserve, restore and use land sustainably, according to a major report that warns of food supply disruptions, forced migration and rapid biodiversity loss. Unless countries scale up action, there will also be a higher risk of zoonotic diseases like Covid-19, declining human health and land resource conflicts.
In the second edition of its “Global Land Outlook” report on land degradation, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification points to global food systems as the primary cause of the problem, being responsible for 80% of deforestation, 70% of freshwater use, and the single greatest cause of terrestrial biodiversity loss.
Damage to soils and water has dire consequences for humanity, a new report warns ahead of meeting of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification
In a press conference to launch the report on 27 April, UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw said that global food systems – and non-food crops such as cotton – were no longer tenable. “We thought that we had more reserves and therefore we could deplete the land and then shift to the next area. Now we realise that is not possible. We have already eaten our reserves.”
He added that consumption was not sustainable either, with wasted food, water and clothing exacerbating the problem.
Call to transform land management
Land degradation occurs when land cover is lost or removed, causing soil and organic matter to be washed or blown away. Salinisation of soil can produce similar effects and reduce land productivity. It can cause expansion and movement of sand dunes, diminished rainfall, depletion of pastureland and erosion from wind and rain.