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Abstract

Land degradation is a pervasive, systemic phenomenon: it occurs in all parts of the terrestrial world and can take many forms. Combating land degradation and restoring degraded land is an urgent priority to protect the biodiversity and ecosystem services vital to all life on Earth and to ensure human well-being

Currently, degradation of the Earth’s land surface through human activities is negatively impacting the well-being of at least 3.2 billion people, pushing the planet towards a sixth mass species extinction, and costing more than 10 per cent of the annual global gross product in loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Loss of ecosystem services through land degradation has reached high levels in many parts of the world, resulting in negative impacts that challenge the coping capacity of human ingenuity.

Groups in situations of vulnerability feel the greatest negative effects of land degradation, and often experience them first. These groups also see the greatest benefits from avoiding, reducing and reversing land degradation (Figure SPM.1).

The main direct drivers of land degradation and associated biodiversity loss are expansion of crop and grazing lands into native vegetation, unsustainable agricultural and forestry practices, climate change, and, in specific areas, urban expansion, infrastructure development and extractive industry.

Investing in avoiding land degradation and the restoration of degraded land makes sound economic sense; the benefits generally by far exceed the cost. Land degradation contributes to the decline and eventual extinction of species and the loss of ecosystem services to humanity, making avoidance, reduction and reversal of land degradation essential for human well-being. Main cause of species loss & driver of the migration of millions of people by 2050 In landmark 3-year assessment report, 100+ experts outline costs, dangers & options Issued by the IPBES secretariat on 23 March 2018.

Options for Land Restoration

The report notes that successful examples of land restoration are found in every ecosystem, and that many well-tested practices and techniques, both traditional and modern, can avoid or reverse degradation.

In croplands, for instance, some of these include reducing soil loss and improving soil health, the use of salt tolerant crops, conservation agriculture and integrated crop, livestock and forestry systems.

In rangelands with traditional grazing, maintenance of appropriate fire regimes, and the reinstatement or development of local livestock management practices and institutions have proven effective.

Successful responses in wetlands have included control over pollution sources, managing the wetlands as part of the landscape, and reflooding wetlands damaged by draining.