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Deteriorating farmland

Effects of climate change greater than previously feared

Published on: 13 May 2016

Deteriorating global farmland and forests threaten ecosystems worldwide, scientists warn

The effects of climate change may be far greater for the world’s poorest people than previously feared because of the way people are managing land, according to leading environmental researchers in a new book released today.

The findings, which offer the first comprehensive synthesis of the links between global climate change and land degradation, are based on research conducted by Professor Mark Reed, Newcastle University, and Professor Lindsay Stringer of University of Leeds. The study was published today by Routledge and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

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Land degradation affects us all

“It’s easy to think of land degradation as a problem of the developing world that doesn’t affect us here in the UK,” explains Professor Reed, Professor of Socio-Technical Innovation at Newcastle University

“But if we continue to lose productive forests and rangelands around the world, then the carbon that they once locked up will be released into the atmosphere where it’ll drive further loss of productive ecosystems and more climate change.

"This will leave even more people vulnerable to the combined effects of climate change and land degradation.

“It’s a vicious cycle and one that will affect everyone living on the planet if we don’t start doing more to avoid runaway climate change by properly looking after our land.”

Need for urgent, integrated action

In the book, the authors highlight how the interactions and feedbacks between climate change and land degradation magnify risks to people and ecosystems across the world.

Calling for a more joined-up approach to tackling land degradation and climate change, Professors Reed and Stringer say we need closer collaboration between researchers, local communities and international policy-makers to deliver timely and cost-effective solutions.

“There is a real need for urgent, integrated action,” says Prof Stringer.

“Tackling land degradation and climate change isn’t just about other people in other places. If we don’t respond now, we all risk paying a catastrophic price in terms of conflict, food insecurity and mass migration in the future.”

The findings will inform the work of the UNCCD’s Science Policy Interface and other global programmes, such as the Economics of Land Degradation Initiative that is assessing costs of action and inaction against degradation, and the first Global Land Outlook, to be published in June 2017.

Reference: Land Degradation, Desertification and Climate Change: Anticipating, Assessing and Adapting to Future Change by Mark Reed and Lindsay C. Stringer is published in the wake of last year’s Paris Agreement on climate change, which will enter into force in 2020, and the agreement of new Sustainable Development Goals for up to 2030.  It is published by Routledge with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.


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