Change language
Sidebar content Main content

World Atlas of Desertification. Mapping Land Degradation and Sustainable Land Management Opportunities


The main findings show that population growth and changes in our consumption patterns put unprecedented pressure on the planet's natural resources:
• Over 75% of the Earth's land area is already degraded, and over 90% could become degraded by 2050.
• Globally, a total area half of the size of the European Union (4.18 million km²) is degraded annually, with Africa and Asia being the most affected.
• The economic cost of soil degradation for the EU is estimated to be in the order of tens of billions of euros annually.
• Land degradation and climate change are estimated to lead to a reduction of global crop yields by about 10% by 2050. Most of this will occur in India, China and sub-Saharan Africa, where land degradation could halve crop production.
• As a consequence of accelerated deforestation it will become more difficult to mitigate the effects of climate change
• By 2050, up to 700 million people are estimated to have been displaced due to issues linked to scarce land resources. The figure could reach up to 10 billion by the end of this century.
While land degradation is a global problem, it takes place locally and requires local solutions.

The importance of land degradation and desertification led to the adoption of Sustainable Development Goal 15.3 aiming at land degradation neutrality.

At EU level desertification affects 8% of the territory, particularly in Southern, Eastern and Central Europe. These regions – representing around 14 million hectares – show high sensitivity to desertification.

Thirteen Member States have declared themselves affected by desertification under UNCCD: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.

The EU is fully committed to protecting soil and fostering sustainable land use, and takes these commitments into account when developing proposals on energy, agriculture, forestry climate change, research and other areas.
The third edition of the World Atlas of Desertification (WAD) builds on state-of-the-art scientific concepts on
land degradation. Given the complexity underlying land degradation, it is not amenable to single global maps that can satisfy all views or needs. Rather, this WAD presents a number of global datasets to identify important, ongoing biophysical and socio-economic processes that, on their own or combined, can lead to unsustainable land use and land degradation. This brochure provides a short overview of these issues. It also provides some examples that reflect global patterns of land degradation to highlight and extract practical principles and methods for developing solutions.

Twenty years have passed since the last atlas of desertification was published. Within that short period enormous global changes have taken place in terms of human expansion and the impact that had on the environment. Equally significant progress has been made in understanding the fundamentals of human-environment interactions.This has been made possible, in part, by the massive increase and growth in the accessibility of global and WAD3 thus begins at a very different place than WAD2 in terms of scientific information and understanding.

That said, the authors are also confronted by the rapidly growing appreciation of the complexity of the land degradation phenomenon and all the human factors that both drive it and are derived from it. As a consequence, rather than attempting to produce a comprehensive global model that cannot deliver useful local or regional information,

WAD3 offers an approach that accommodates and embraces these complexities and is intended to provide an information framework from which to pursue solutions that fit specific local situations.

Copy numberShelfmarkLoan categorySiteLoan status
REF/ATL/33 EREF/ATL/33 EBookmainavailable
AIS uses strictly necessary cookies to improve the user experience.
This AIS also uses analytical cookies.