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Protect Soils

Crop fields in the Malagasy highlands, near Ambatolampy, Madagascar
Pie chart: 19% of world population affected (1.2 billions) Pie chart: 33% of soils degraded Negative trend

Soils deliver more than nine tenths of all food for human beings, whether it is directly or indirectly (crops, fungi, milk produces, meat – everything but fish, seafood, seaweed, algae, salt, and soda).

Affected people and foundations of life: More than 1.2 billion people and about one third of all land usable for agriculture in more than 110 countries are affected by soil degradation (MA [Millennium Ecosystem Assessment] 2005a). Worldwide, areas of 20 million km2 (square kilometres) in 2000 were exposed to a high level erosion risk from surface water runoff (OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] 2008, 225). Soils are loosing fertility for production of food and other agricultural goods. Moreover, large areas are threatened of being turned into steppe or deserts. Major causes are overgrazing, intensive or inappropriate methods of agriculture, and deforestation. Suitable plantings can improve the quality of soils.

Targets/goals: to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought (goal of UN [United Nations] Convention to Combat Desertification; UNCCD 1994).

Trend: Annually, 20 000-50 000 km2 of soil is lost globally through land degradation, chiefly erosion (UNEP [United Nations Environment Programme] 2007, 95). Areas with a high level erosion risk from water are projected to increase from 20 to nearly 30 million km2 in 2030 (OECD 2008, 225).

Measures: The UN Convention to Combat Desertification has initiated various action programmes (unccd.int).

Annotations: For numeric names the short scale is used:
1 billion = one thousand million = 109 = 1 000 000 000


Draft (2008)

This draft is to be reviewed by experts. Your hints are welcome, please use the contact form.

Photo credit: © Markus Horsch - external.