Title: Running out of land - a new global challenge
Authors: BELWARD Alan
Citation: The Biologist vol. 61 no. 3 p. 28-31
Publisher: Society of Biology
Publication Year: 2014
JRC N°: JRC89319
ISSN: ISSN 0006-3347
URI: societyofbiology.org
http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/handle/JRC89319
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: We are running out of land. In 2011 the human population passed 7 billion and has been growing by 155 additional people every minute since. Less than a third of Earth’s surface is land, but this is where most of us live most of the time. A fifth of this is desert, snow and ice. Vegetation grows on the remaining land unless it is taken by urban infrastructure (The EU alone loses some 1000 km2 of agricultural land each year), but less than 18% of this has soil that is naturally capable of supporting sustained crop production, yet we rely on the land for 99% of our calories. We can’t make more land so the competition for this finite resource is fierce. Economic wellbeing requires efficient use of resources yet globally resource use is increasing – and therefore access is likely to be increasingly insecure, increasingly costly and ultimately unsustainable. We must optimise food, fibre and fuel production whilst retaining land’s role as a carbon sink, a water reservoir and a home for biological diversity. EU policy aims to keep land resource use and regenerative capacity in balance. This has best chance of success when based on sound information concerning how, when and where land and soil resources are being used and how this is changing. The EU's new Copernicus programme aims to provide some of the needed information from its global land service.
JRC Directorate:Sustainable Resources

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