A new study published in the journal Soil Use and Management attempts for the first time to measure the extent and severity of land degradation across the globe and concludes that 24% of the land area is degrading – often in very productive areas.
Land degradation - the decline in the quality of soil, water and vegetation – is of profound importance but until now there have been no consistent global data by which to assess its extent and severity.
For nearly thirty years the world has depended on the Global Assessment of Soil Degradation (GLASOD) based on the subjective judgement of soil scientists who knew the conditions in their countries. GLASOD indicated that 15 per cent of the land area was degraded, but this was a map of perceptions, rather than measurement of land degradation.
The new study by Bai et al. measures global land degradation based on a clearly defined and consistent method using remotely sensed imagery. The results are startling. The new assessment indicates that 24 per cent of the land has been degraded over the period 1981-2003 - but there is hardly any overlap with the GLASOD area that recorded the cumulative effects of land degradation up to about 1990.
One of the authors, Dr David Dent of ISRIC - World Soil Information explains: "Degradation is primarily driven by land management and catastrophic natural phenomena.
Our study shows the extent and severity of land degradation measured in terms of loss of net primary productivity, making allowance for climatic variability. Overall, a quarter of the world's population depends directly on these degrading areas. The worst-hit areas are Africa south of the Equator, SE Asia and S China. The worst-affected countries, with more than 50 per cent of territory degrading are, in Africa, the Congo, Zaire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Sierra Leone, Zambia and the most affected (95 per cent degrading) Swaziland; in Asia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Korea and Indonesia. In terms of the rural population affected, the greatest numbers are in China, with nearly half a billion, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Brazil. The usual suspects, such as the African Sahel and around the Mediterranean are much less affected."
The resulting loss of carbon fixation from the atmosphere over the measured period amounts to a thousand million tonnes. At a shadow price of $50 per tonne, the loss of carbon fixed amounts to $50 billion – and the real cost is far greater in terms of emissions to the atmosphere through loss of soil organic carbon.
Comparison with land use reveals that 19% of the degrading area is cropland and 43% forest. Cropland occupies 12% of the land area and forest 28%, so both are affected disproportionately.
The study found only weak correlations between degrading land and rural population density and with biophysical factors such aridity. The researchers conclude that more detailed analysis of land use history is needed to uncover the underlying social and economic drivers of land degradation.
Samantha Holford | EurekAlert!
Trees and climate change: Faster growth, lighter wood
14.08.2018 | Technische Universität München
Animals and fungi enhance the performance of forests
01.08.2018 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...
Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.
When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...
Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.
Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....
Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.
Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...
Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of a copper-oxide compound depends on the magnetic field in a very unusual way -- a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperatur
What happens when really powerful magnets--capable of producing magnetic fields nearly two million times stronger than Earth's--are applied to materials that...
08.08.2018 | Event News
27.07.2018 | Event News
25.07.2018 | Event News
15.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
15.08.2018 | Earth Sciences
15.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy