FAO: Global Farmland Degredation Increasing in Severity

July 2, 2008 07:00 PM
AgWeb.com Editors

Land degradation is intensifying in many parts of the world, according to a study done by the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organizaion. 

According to research using data taken over a 20-year period, a global long-term decline in ecosystem function and productivity is increasing in severity and extent with more than 20 percent of all cultivated areas, 30 percent of forests and 10 percent of grasslands undergoing degradation. The degredation directly affects an estimated 1.5 billion people, or a quarter of the world's population, FAO said.

Consequences of land degradation include reduced productivity, migration, food insecurity, damage to basic resources and ecosystems, and loss of biodiversity through changes to habitats at both species and genetic levels. The loss of biomass and soil organic matter also releases carbon into the atmosphere and affects the quality of soil and its ability to hold water and nutrients, according to an official statement from FAO.

The study also found that degradation is being driven mainly by poor land management. Approximately 22 percent of degrading land is in very arid to dry-subhumid areas, while 78 percent of it is in humid regions.

However, the study also revealed bright spots where land is being used sustainably (19% of cropland) or is showing improved quality and productivity (10% of forests and 19% of grassland). Improvements were most notable on rain-fed cropland and pastures in the plains of North America and western India.

Read the FAO's study here.

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