Land degradation - the reduction in the capacity of the land to support human and other life on earth - is one of the biggest challenges the Earth is facing.
Yet, little is being done to slow down or stop the degradation process. A team of twenty leading researchers from all over the world, led by University of Twente researcher Wieteke Willemen, developed a strategy to ensure land degradation is being halted. Their findings feature in the latest edition of Nature Sustainability.
Our high consumption life-styles and continued population growth put enormous pressure on land and nature. This fuels a rapid expansion and unsustainable management of lands used for agriculture, forestry, mining, and infrastructure. Discernible consequences appear in the loss of important ecosystem processes and a decrease in biodiversity: both developments that contribute to climate change and reduce food and water security, the natural protection against flooding, and healthy environments. Land degradation has already negatively affected the living conditions of at least two-fifths of the people on Earth and it is estimated to be reducing global economic output by a tenth.
The effects of degradation of land and nature are severe and impactful. However, a report of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), published in 2018, provided a positive outlook: there are numerous examples that show that coordinated policy and involvement of various stakeholders may lead to significant results. The twenty researchers have now joint forces to formulate a universal strategy to overcome the most important barriers to successfully addressing land degradation.
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