Evaluation is key to stopping land degradation

Sand Dunes Near Lhasa Airport | flickr user David and Jessie

On World Day to Combat Desertification (June 17), the International Resource Panel (part of UNEP) has called for the world to improve the way we evaluate land. Evaluation is key to reversing land degradation with the loss of over 24 billion tonnes of fertile soil and 15 billion trees disappearing every year. As the world’s populations increasingly urbanises, so does the demand for food and fibres which will cause 320-849 million hectares of land to be converted to cropland by 2050. This will lead to an increase in emissions from agriculture from 24 to 30 per cent.

Increasing and improving the evaluation of land across the globe can lead to a better understanding of the land’s potential at farm, watershed, country and regional levels – raising food productivity, promoting biodiversity, and increasing resilience to climate change. The International Resource Panel has published the Unlocking the Sustainable Potential of Land Resources: Evaluation Systems, Strategies and Tools [PDF] which looks at a series of tools that can help policy makers and land managers unlock the full potential of land, allowing them to use resources more efficiently. The report highlights useful tools to achieve land degradation neutrality.

With mobile phones becoming increasingly cheaper we are moving into the next generation of integrative systems and tools (apps) for land evaluation. Tools are currently being developed to provide real-time estimates of site-specific potential productivity, degradation resistance, and resilience via mobile technology. Of course, we need more than tools to assist with evaluating land, we also need international policies and targets in regards to land degradation neutrality, land use planning, land management, equity, incentives, biodiversity conservation and restoration planning along with climate change adaptation.

We also need to understand that by evaluating land we can gain a greater wealth of knowledge around land potential and then increase innovation based on the information recorded in relation to soil, climate, and topography. By bringing together the tools, policies and local knowledge we can increase the fight against desertification and land degradation. Within the report the IRP lists numerous websites with the latest available information and tools including ISRIC.org, LandscapeToolbox.org, JournalMap.org, and LandPotential.org as well as many others.

Image Credit | flickr user David and Jessie