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40% of the world's existing land is degraded - Ciência & Saúde

40% of the world’s existing land is degraded – Ciência & Saúde

The damage that human hands do to this planet is increasing with each passing day and increasingly threatens the ability to feed the planet’s inhabitants. According to the latest data from the United Nations, 40% of the world’s land is in degradation and 50% of the world’s population is already suffering from the impacts.

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Lands are increasingly “depleted”: they do not have natural resources, the soil is not fertile, there is a shortage of water, biodiversity and trees.

Francisco asserts that “a functional soil is a soil that ensures the retention of water, the existence of many species and agricultural crops. The processes of desertification and degradation threaten the normal functioning of the planet and the provision of services to the population.” Ferreira, president of Associação Zero, in an interview with Saturday.

As for the affected areas, it is not only in deserts or arid areas, there are more and more tropical forests that are falling victim to this problem due to the logging industry or through the expansion of construction areas. In Portugal alone, according to Zero, it is estimated that 5% of the land is occupied artificially, that is, it is used for housing and infrastructure.

What leads to deterioration

“There are soils that have been left desertified because of the type of agricultural exploitation that has been developed or because they are over-cultivated. There are other soils that are used for purposes that make it very impossible to recover, as in the case of quarries and mines, or erosion caused by fires. Then there are the indirect effects,” explains Francisco Ferreira. , such as climate change.

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Agriculture on already degraded lands is very complex, with less and more water resources appearing in the soil and signs of gradual depletion, contributing to the loss of plant and animal species, which leads to a further climate crisis.

“Land degradation reduces GDP, affecting people’s health, reducing access to clean water, and exacerbating drought. Modern agriculture has changed the planet more than any other human activity. Our global food systems, which are responsible for 70% of The use of fresh water and the largest has caused the loss of terrestrial biodiversity” Watchman, Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary of the United Nations to Combat Desertification.

Developing countries end up being the hardest hit, but the roots of the problem lie in the richest countries. excessive use of Fast-Fashion (the clothes we buy to wear only for a short time) and the increase in meat consumption are just some of the examples that exacerbate the difficulties.

“We have been following the data at the European level regarding the issue of food. Of course, we have to look at the increase in population as a problem because we have a finite planet. But the main issue is the very unfair distribution of resources and the waste of these same resources. We have to bet on More efficient and more environmentally friendly food solutions, such as reducing farming and livestock, intensive farming based on chemicals and fertilizers and reducing waste,” he says. Saturday President of the Environmental Association.

The situation in Portugal

The European Space Agency prepared a study that assessed the level of soil degradation in several countries and in mainland Portugal. From 2000 to 2010, 33% of soils were degraded and 2% showed a natural tendency toward degradation. Most of the land in poor condition was found mainly in the northern region of the country, while the areas tending to be degraded were mostly in the center and south of the country.

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“The spread of land management over natural processes indicates a very vulnerable agricultural ecosystem” cautioned against applying the Land Degradation Index (LDI)

EEZA (Spain), DesertWatch . project team


“Basic measures include reducing the consumption and use of fossil fuels. Hence it is necessary to make an integrated and sustainable use of the soil, avoiding agricultural crops that remove organic matter and endanger its functions”

Despite the advanced state of the problem, experts ensure that the situation can still be reversed. For this, it is necessary to change the cultivation methods, put rainwater harvesting into practice and replant trees to prevent soil erosion. But these procedures are often neglected due to the need to speed up production processes, lack of knowledge or even lack of resources.

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