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Cities, Population Growth Displacing Agriculture

Degraded lands are the center of much attention as global demands for food, feed and fuel continue to increase at unprecedented rates. Meanwhile, the agricultural land base needed for food production is shrinking in many parts of the world. To compensate, global agricultural operations for livestock, soybeans and palm oil have been converting the world’s tropical rainforests into farmland. The results have been devastating for people, planet and wildlife.

Land use, land-use change, and forestry (LULUCF), also referred to as forestry and other land use (FOLU) is one of the most urgent issues facing the planet. Land conversion is the single greatest cause of extinction of terrestrial species. Deforestation is one of the leading causes of global warming and climate change, which is sparking more forest fires and larger forest fires.

The extent, and type of land use directly affects wildlife habitat and thereby impacts local and global biodiversity. Human alteration of landscapes from natural vegetation to any other use results in habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation, all of which can have devastating effects on biodiversity.

Urban growth has become a problem for forests and agriculture, the expansion of structures prevents natural resources from producing in their environment.

Expect additional pressure on the land base for fuel production as energy policies encourage more bioenergy production.

In order to prevent the loss of wildlife, forests must maintain a stable climate and the land must remain undeveloped. Forests can be sustained by different forest management techniques such as reforestation and preservation. Reforestation is a reactive approach designed to replant trees that were previously logged within the forest boundary in attempts to re-stabilize this ecosystem. Preservation on the other hand is a proactive idea that promotes the concept of leaving the forest as is, without using this area for its ecosystem goods and services. Both of these methods to mitigate deforestation are being used throughout the world.

The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed the UN Decade On Ecosystem Restoration following a proposal for action by more than 70 countries from all latitudes. The UN Decade is building a strong, broad-based global movement to ramp up restoration and put the world on track for a sustainable future.

The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration is a rallying call for the protection and revival of ecosystems all around the world, for the benefit of people and nature. It aims to halt the degradation of ecosystems, and restore them to achieve global goals. Only with healthy ecosystems can we enhance people’s livelihoods, counteract climate change, and stop the collapse of biodiversity.

The UN Decade runs from 2021 through 2030, which is also the deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals and the timeline scientists have identified as the last chance to prevent catastrophic climate change.

The goal is to meet the Bonn Challenge–the world’s largest voluntary forest landscape restoration initiative. It has a global target to bring 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested lands into restoration by 2020 and 350 million by 2030. The other goal is to salvage 350 million hectares of degraded and deforested lands.

deforestation and climate change

“Societies worldwide will need to be convinced of the global restoration imperative by rational economic argument, compassion for current and future generations, and an emotional connection to nature”, according to the authors of one article in the journal.

The Unasylva issue looks at prospects for meeting the Bonn Challenge and mechanisms for measuring and accelerating progress, and examines work in China, Kenya, Brazil, Madagascar, Cambodia and Sao Tome and Principe. It also discusses how restoration work can be scaled up.

Increased production from existing croplands is part of the solution.

Agricultural expansion into natural ecosystems leads to significant losses of ecosystem services, such as habitat necessary to maintain biodiversity, storage of carbon, flood mitigation, and soil and watershed protection.

There are many benefits to be achieved from the idealized vision of restoring degraded lands, especially when this could spare forests and avoid competition with food crops. However, this potential is often estimated using highly uncertain data. The risks of overestimating the availability and productive potential of these areas is severe, as it may divert attention from efforts to reduce waste or the demand for land-intensive commodities.

Read The Full Story About Global Land Use.

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Greener Cities is a division of Crossbow Communications. Greener Cities is a resource for sustainable and resilient cities and communities around the world.

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Author: Gary Chandler

Gary Chandler is a sustainability strategist, author and advocate. Follow him on Twitter @Gary_Chandler