Degradation of land caused by farming and forestation is contributing to the emission of greenhouse gases that fuel climate change.
Researchers from the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, or IPBES, is about to release a damning report on how soil damage is hampering efforts to reverse climate change and impact the world's ability to feed the growing population.
They are scheduled to officially release the report on Monday, May 6.
Soil Damage And Climate Change
There are several ways that harming the land can contribute to climate change. First, the soil contains about three times more carbon than the atmosphere and, through reckless farming and deforestation, the carbon is released back to the atmosphere. Second, soil damage also impacts the growth of plants which takes in carbon from the atmosphere.
Bob Watson, the chairman of IPBES, stated that 3.2 billion people around the world are severely affected by degraded soil.
"There's no question we are degrading soils all over the world," Watson explained via the BBC. " We are losing from the soil the organic carbon and this undermines agricultural productivity and contributes to climate change."
He pointed out that the focus so far has mostly been on climate change However, the loss of biodiversity and land degradation are equally important and pressing issues that need to be addressed.
Moreover, soil degradation affects the ability to grow food. Scientists from India and China are worried that global soil degradation could cut production of food and threatening their ability to feed their growing population.
A 2017 study backed by the United Nations found that a third of the land around the world is already severely degraded. An estimated 24 billion tons of fertile soil is lost every year.
Caring For The Land Could Aid In Fight Against Climate Change
The researchers added that it is not too late to reverse the damage that humanity has done to the land. One way to protect the soil and combat climate change is to allow forests to grow back.
Farmers can also continue to produce food by following practices that enhance the soil.
"The thin layer of soil covering the Earth's surface represents the difference between survival and extinction for most terrestrial life," said Jane Rickson, a soil expert from Cranfield University.