Global warming, lack of rainwater due to drought and the effects of El Niño are causing cultivated land to dry and crack (Thailand).
© Blanscape/


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Worsening land degradation caused by human activities is undermining the well-being of two fifths of humanity, driving species extinctions and intensifying climate change. It is also a major contributor to mass human migration and increased conflict.

The outcomes of an assessment of land degradation and restoration launched in April 2018 draw a grim picture of the future if land degradation continues to spread.

Produced by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the three-year IPBES Assessment Report on Land Degradation and Restoration was written by more than 100 leading experts from 45 countries.

Rapid expansion and unsustainable management of croplands and grazing lands is the most extensive global direct driver of land degradation, causing significant loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. This has reached ‘critical’ levels in many parts of the world, the report says.

The wellbeing of at least 3.2 billion people is undermined by the degradation of the Earth’s land surface through human activities, according to the authors. Moreover, they warn that these developments are pushing the planet towards a sixth mass species extinction and point out that land degradation is a major driver of climate change.

Wetlands have been particularly hard hit by land degradation, the authors say.

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