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Desertification and soil degradation: Although the level of desertification is lower in much of the pan-European region than in neighbouring regions, in Southern, Central and Eastern Europe, approximately 14 million ha (8 per cent of the territory) has a very high or high sensitivity to desertification, and more than 40 million ha have moderate sensitivity.
This impacts on soil productivity and hence biodiversity and agriculture. Extensive areas of European soils are affected by natural and man-made salinity, with Spain topping the list with 3.4 million hectares of saline and sodic soils (Zdruli 2014). An extreme form of land degradation is desertification, that results in serious impairment of all soil functions and currently affects about 33 per cent of the territory of the Mediterranean semiarid drylands. However, the most critical threat to European soils is sealing, as described in Section 2.8.3.