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Soil Degradation, Land Scarcity and Food Security: Reviewing a Complex Challenge

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  • Tiziano Gomiero

    () (Fellow Department of Environmental Studies, Faculty of Social Studies, Masaryk University, 602 00 Brno, Czech Republic
    Independent scholar; Mogliano Veneto 31021 (TV), Italy)

Abstract

Soil health, along with water supply, is the most valuable resource for humans, as human life depends on the soil’s generosity. Soil degradation, therefore, poses a threat to food security, as it reduces yield, forces farmers to use more inputs, and may eventually lead to soil abandonment. Unfortunately, the importance of preserving soil health appears to be overlooked by policy makers. In this paper, I first briefly introduce the present situation concerning agricultural production, natural resources, soil degradation, land use and the challenge ahead, to show how these issues are strictly interwoven. Then, I define soil degradation and present a review of its typologies and estimates at a global level. I discuss the importance of preserving soil capital, and its relationship to human civilization and food security. Trends concerning the availability of arable agricultural land, different scenarios, and their limitations, are analyzed and discussed. The possible relation between an increase in a country’s GNP, population and future availability of arable land is also analyzed, using the World Bank’s database. I argue that because of the many sources of uncertainty in the data, and the high risks at stake, a precautionary approach should be adopted when drawing scenarios. The paper ends with a discussion on the key role of preserving soil organic matter, and the need to adopt more sustainable agricultural practices. I also argue that both our relation with nature and natural resources and our lifestyle need to be reconsidered.

Suggested Citation

  • Tiziano Gomiero, 2016. "Soil Degradation, Land Scarcity and Food Security: Reviewing a Complex Challenge," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(3), pages 1-41, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:8:y:2016:i:3:p:281-:d:66100
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Dirk Vrebos & Francesca Bampa & Rachel E. Creamer & Ciro Gardi & Bhim Bahadur Ghaley & Arwyn Jones & Michiel Rutgers & Taru Sandén & Jan Staes & Patrick Meire, 2017. "The Impact of Policy Instruments on Soil Multifunctionality in the European Union," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 9(3), pages 1-18, March.
    2. repec:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:7:p:2447-:d:157731 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Vanessa Bach & Markus Berger & Natalia Finogenova & Matthias Finkbeiner, 2017. "Assessing the Availability of Terrestrial Biotic Materials in Product Systems (BIRD)," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 9(1), pages 1-35, January.
    4. repec:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:7:p:2192-:d:154704 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. repec:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:6:p:1969-:d:152029 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. repec:gam:jsusta:v:9:y:2017:i:7:p:1220-:d:104406 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. repec:gam:jsusta:v:9:y:2017:i:4:p:578-:d:95470 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. repec:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:4:p:949-:d:137866 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. repec:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:4:p:1024-:d:138859 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Xinliang Xu & Hongyan Cai & Daowei Sun & Lan Hu & Kwamina E. Banson, 2016. "Impacts of Mining and Urbanization on the Qin-Ba Mountainous Environment, China," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(5), pages 1-15, May.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    soil degradation; land degradation; soil conservation; scenario analysis; agriculture; organic agriculture; food production; food security; climate change; ecosystem services; precautionary approach;

    JEL classification:

    • Q - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics
    • Q0 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q3 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products

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