How can deforestation reduce soil erosion

Developing and dealing with soil degradation and desertification

1. Introduction - land use

Soil is essential for the production of most foodstuffs for the needs of the constantly growing population and yet its contribution to our quality of life is perceived in extremely different and often contradicting ways. Soil degradation is a global problem, but it is local and requires local solutions. Greater commitment and more efficient cooperation at the local level are necessary in order to halt soil degradation and the loss of biodiversity. Now, more and more in-depth analyzes of the diverse functions of soil from the various perspectives of interrelated sectors and issues are emerging, such as the food-water-soil interaction, as well as less obvious drivers of land use, particularly the type of economic growth, consumer choice and global trade patterns.

2. What does desertification mean?

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) defines desertification as in its 1995 declaration "Soil degradation in arid areas due to various factors, including climate fluctuations and human activities". The term is often associated with images of deserts that spread across landscapes and encroach on fields, as well as with starving, endangered population groups. Desertification is only part of the larger problem of land degradation and so the 2018 World Desertification Atlas uses a broader definition: "Soil degradation leads to a long-term disruption of the balance between demand and supply of goods and services in the ecosystem".

3. What is the current pressure on the floor?

The pressure on global land resources is greater than ever before in human history. A rapidly growing population in connection with increased consumption places ever higher demands on our land-based natural capital. A significant proportion of the operated and natural ecosystems are deteriorating; this is particularly alarming in view of the increasing demand for soil-intensive crops and livestock.

The loss of biodiversity and climate change are also endangering soil health and productivity: higher CO2 emissions and temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, soil erosion, species loss and water scarcity are likely to change the suitability of vast regions for food production and housing.

Main driving forces for soil degradation
⇨ overgrazing: 35%
⇨ Deforestation: 30%
⇨ Agricultural activities: 28%
⇨ Overexploitation for fuels: 7%

Soil degradation lowers resilience or resistance to various other types of stress; In particular, it increases the vulnerability of the poor population, women and children, can intensify competition for rare natural resources and leads to migration, instability and conflict. The dimensions of the resulting transformations in rural areas in recent decades have been unprecedented: Millions of people have left their ancestral lands and migrated to urban areas, often sacrificing their cultural identity, giving up traditional knowledge and permanently changing the landscape.

4. How can land be used sustainably and what is still lacking to stop desertification?

People act as consumers, producers, companies or governments and it is the sum of all individual decisions that fuel a global soil crisis; Business-as-usual approaches are inadequate to deal with the scale of these challenges.

In this situation, sustainable land management (SLM), a holistic approach to preserving all ecosystem services in long-term productive ecosystems, was developed. SLM is defined as follows: "The use of land resources, including soil, water, animals and plants, for the production of goods in order to meet changing human needs while ensuring the long-term production potential of these resources and the preservation of their environmental functions". This approach integrates economic, socio-cultural and biophysical needs and values. The SLM is now the main mechanism for achieving the Land Degradation Neutrality, a point at which land degradation from human activity is offset by profit-making measures. Indeed, scientific evidence is increasingly underscoring the benefits of adopting practices such as ground-based solutions that have the potential to be concurrently Desertification, land degradation and droughts (DLDD), the adaptation and mitigation of climate change and often the achievement of other side benefits such as the protection of biodiversity.

More specifically, it contributes directly to several of the 17th Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations:

  • Protection of terrestrial ecosystems (SDG 15) focuses on achieving Land Degradation Neutrality;
  • End Poverty (SDG 1);
  • Secure nutrition (SDG 2);
  • Healthy life for everyone (SDG 3) through contributions to food safety;

In addition, SLM contributes to:

  • Water and sanitation for everyone (SDG 6), through its contribution to sustainable water management;
  • Take immediate action (SDG 13) through higher carbon stocks in biomass and soil.

5. What is missing to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN)?

Projects to address issues of sustainability development have long suffered from fragmentation, which has jeopardized the implementation of comprehensive and efficient solutions. What is missing are holistic transformation projects and programs that integrate different dimensions of the problem. Projects dealing with sustainability issues have long suffered from fragmentation, which has jeopardized the implementation of comprehensive and efficient solutions2. The lack of development of such large-scale transformation projects corresponds to enormous missed opportunities in achieving sustainable development.

Transformation projects and targeted policies should therefore aim to reduce the considerable pressure on land and soil and restore lost land to a healthy and productive state. This requires synergy between different sectors and national sustainable development plans, which at the same time include additional management options:

  1. Avoiding soil degradation through land use planning that takes full account of the potential and resilience of land resources;
  2. Adopt sustainable land management strategies and practicesto reduce current soil degradation;
  3. Rehabilitation / reconstruction of degraded areas.

2"Soil Degradation - Transformative Measures" The UNCCD's Global Mechanism

6. What is the World Desertification Atlas and what are its main findings?

The World atlas on desertification is a document of the European Commission, which focuses on the underlying causes of global soil degradation and global environmental change, and particularly emphasizes the urgency to adopt corrective measures. On this basis, it offers strategy decision-makers and decision-makers worldwide a tool for comprehensive and easily accessible insights into soil degradation and its reasons.

These insights can be used to identify important biophysical and socio-economic processes that, individually or in combination, lead to unsustainable land use and soil degradation. This provides ways to improve local responses to soil loss and land degradation, all measures and potential remedies to combat desertification and restore degraded land.

Some of the atlas’s insights into unprecedented pressures on the planet’s natural resources include:

  • Over 75% of the earth's land is already degraded and over 90% could be by 2050;
  • Globally, a total of half of the European Union (4.18 million km²) is degraded annually, with Africa and Asia being hit hardest;
  • By 2050, it is estimated that up to 700 million people will have been relocated due to problems related to land resource constraints. The number could rise to as high as 10 billion by the end of our century;
  • As deforestation accelerates, it is becoming increasingly difficult to mitigate the effects of climate change and soil degradation. By 2050, climate change is estimated to have reduced global crop yields by around 10%. Most of this will hit India, China and sub-Saharan Africa, where soil degradation could cut crops by as much as 50%.

At EU level, desertification already affects 85% of the territory, especially in southern, eastern and central Europe. These regions, with around 14 million hectares, show a high vulnerability to desertification and thirteen Member States have declared that, according to the criteria of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) themselves are affected by desertification.

7. Are there funds available to achieve the goals?

There are significant opportunities for funding projects and programs Land Degradation Neutralityincluding national budgets, development banks, global funds, bilateral agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector. These sources of funding are growing steadily as commitments to sustainable development continue to unfold. The efficient tapping of funding opportunities requires countries to develop and implement transformation projects and programs that are based on strategies based on the principles and targets of the SDGs.

In particular, developing countries and transitional economies are available to funds Global environmental facility3 (GEF) and serve as a financial mechanism to serve the objectives of a number of international environmental conventions and agreements.

1United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Bonn, Germany, 2017. Orr, B.J., A.L. Cowie, V.M. Castillo Sanchez, P. Chasek, N.D. Crossman, A. Erlewein, G. Louwagie, M. Maron, G.I. Metternicht, S. Minelli, A.E. Tengberg, S. Walter, and S. Welton.