Soil Erosion Could Cause Global Food Shortage
One-third of the world’s arable land has been lost to erosion or pollution over the last 40 years, according to a new report. The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Sheffield’s Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures in England. They warn that this level of erosion could have severe effects on world food production.
The study’s authors concluded that nearly 33 percent of the world’s adequate or high-quality food-producing land has been lost at a speed surpassing nature’s ability to replace diminished soil. While soil is eroded rapidly, it takes thousands of years to fully replenish.
The drastic decline in soil quality comes as the world’s demand for food is rapidly increasing. Estimates predict that the world will need to grow 50 percent more food by 2050, to feed an expected population of nine billion people.
The researchers presented their findings at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in December 2015. They described the loss as catastrophic and urged major changes in agricultural practices around the world. In the worst-case scenario, formerly productive lands around the world could become as barren as the American dustbowl in the 1930s.
The study suggested a number of possible solutions to the soil loss, including recycling nutrients from sewage, using biotechnology to wean plants of fertilizer dependence, and rotating crops with livestock areas.