A situation that causes conflict
Soils lose quality when they are overexploited or poorly exploited. Cultivable land is becoming less and less numerous on the surface of the planet and this will lead, more and more, to the populations to move. " By 2050, this degradation combined with the climate change problems, which are closely linked, will force 50 to 700 million people to migrate ," the researchers said.
According to the study, the most optimistic projections (50 million people forced to move to find better soil quality), will be achieved even if everything is put in place to reduce our impact and minimize climate change. The report also points out that " declining soil productivity makes societies more vulnerable to social instability, especially in dry regions, where years of very low rainfall have been associated with rising violent conflict going on. up to 45% ". Soil degradation would be a source of war.
87% of wetlands lost
In some parts of the world, soils no longer fulfill their role of water filtration, carbon storage or fertilizers. Several reasons explain this situation, such as the decline of biodiversity and deforestation. A quarter of the lands today escape the phenomenon. This figure will fall to 10% in 2050. IPBES also pointed out that 4 / 5th of the world's population lives in areas threatened by lack of water. " We have transformed much of our forests, our grasslands, we have lost 87% of our wetlands (…) We have really changed the Earth's surface ," said Watson, president of the IPBES. " Tropical forests have historically been sparsely populated because it was difficult to get in. Today we build roads, we introduce agriculture ," he said. to AFP Robert Scholes, one of the co-authors of the report.
Soil degradation is already affecting the well-being of more than 3.2 billion men and women. Indeed, the deterioration of the land is accompanied by the deterioration of food security and the health of human beings. Soil degradation also contributes to worsening climate change. For example, deforestation and reduced soil capacity to store carbon that causes climate change contribute to the greenhouse effect. A real vicious circle that also affects animals and plants. The loss of biodiversity is expected to be 38-46% by 2050. " Soil degradation, biodiversity loss and climate change are three facets of the same important challenge: the increasingly dangerous impact of our choices about our natural environment "said Robert Watson. It must be understood that the future of the land will define the future of humanity.
For researchers, intensive agriculture is an important factor in this deterioration of soils. The IPBES study highlights the over-consumption of developed countries and the increasing consumption of developing countries. All this while the world population is increasing more and more. But other factors also bear responsibility, such as logging, mining and oil extraction, or excessive and uncontrolled urbanization.
Still Possible Solutions
Researchers have also proposed measures to limit damage before it is too late. Thus, they emphasized that soil restoration would yield 10 times more benefits than their degradation currently costs. For regions like Africa or Asia, the cost of inaction to land degradation is at least 3 times the price of the action. The researchers also stressed the need to coordinate international, national and individual actions, which are now fragmented.
Scientists have proposed re-flooding dry swamps and stopping water pollution from mining, agriculture and industry at the source. In cities, the report recommends "green infrastructure" such as parks, reintroduction of native plant species, sewage treatment and river rehabilitation.
But it is agriculture that has a major role to play. It would be necessary to change several methods. So plowing the land can make it vulnerable to erosion and release the carbon it has captured, aggravating global warming. It has long been thought that this technique was used to aerate the soil, but today it is known that it destroys all the biodiversity contained in the earth. In terms of agriculture, subsidized fertilizer costs farmers very little. They are therefore pushed to use them. IPBES recommends replacing what they consider to be " perverse incentives, which promote soil degradation" through positive measures of sustainable management. Better labeling is also recommended by researchers. They want to leave consumers the choice to buy products with a more or less negative impact on the planet.
Finally, for IPBES, governments should take into account the protection of the planet in their decisions and coordinate them, stop fragmenting agriculture and environment on one side, economy, energy, infrastructure on the other. In itself, no longer isolate the theme of the environment. Experts also insist on a concerted vision at the international, national and individual levels, including indigenous and local communities.
Robert Watson says: " implementing actions to combat land degradation can transform the lives of millions of people around the world, but the longer we wait, the more it will become expensive and difficult to achieve "
The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) was established in 2012 under the auspices of the United Nations. It now has 129 Member States. This platform aims to inform governments and the public on issues related to biodiversity changes. For this purpose, IPBES researchers carry out a regular synthesis of scientific knowledge.