U.S. loses 24 million acres of natural land

August 7, 2019 by  
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Mother Nature might be ticked, because the United States is losing land fast. If you’ve ever visited the glorious Grand Canyon, you already know how vast it is. Imagine what a combined nine Grand Canyons would look like, and you have the equivalent of the amount of natural land the U.S. has lost from 2001-2017. That’s 24 million acres if you do the math. The reason? According to a recent study conducted by the Center for American Progress, “How Much Nature Should America Keep,” it’s all because of agriculture, energy expansion, an increase in housing build-outs and other human-made developments, making the U.S. more susceptible to climate change . Related: Scientific consensus reaches beyond 99% on human-caused climate change The study calculated the country’s land degradation by adding up the impact of all the above factors to come to an assessment. Bottom-line, the center said that the “U.S. needs to set a goal to protect 30 percent of land and oceans by 2030 to stem the rapid decline of natural areas, which will protect the country from the worst impacts of climate change and wildlife extinction .” The report also found that presently, 12 percent of the country’s land area has been saved as national parks , wilderness areas and other kinds of protected areas, while 26 percent of the country’s ocean area is protected from drilling for oil and gas. The report continued, “The United States is entering an era in which it will rely more than ever on the integrity and stability of the natural world to provide economic prosperity, safeguard the health of communities and weather the effects of a changing climate.” As for the sharpest losses of natural areas, these took place in the southern and Midwestern U.S. as the carbon footprints of cities, farms, streets, power plants and other developments increased from 47 percent and 59 percent of land area, respectively. To turn things around — and hopefully protect 30 percent of land by 2030 and avoid even more land degradation — the U.S. must increase its current land conservation blueprint at both the federal and local levels. + Center for American Progress Via Reuters Image via Tony Webster

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U.S. loses 24 million acres of natural land

Land degradation could displace 50 to 700 million people by 2050

March 27, 2018 by  
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Land decay is undermining the well-being of two-fifths of all the people on Earth, or around 3.2 billion people , according to an Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) three-year assessment, penned by over 100 experts hailing from 45 countries. It’s the first comprehensive land health assessment, according to Agence France Presse (AFP) — and assessment co-chair Robert Scholes of South Africa said land degradation is “pushing the planet towards a sixth mass extinction .” Human activity is driving dangerous land degradation — specifically quick expansion and unsustainable management of crop and grazing lands, according to IPBES. They said land decay has hit critical levels, impacting food security , water purification, and energy. The impacts of land degradation can be glimpsed in loss of biodiversity , declining animal populations, deforestation , and loss of soil health, to name a few. The assessment also says land degradation contributes to climate change . Related: Substantial swaths of globe face desertification without climate action — new study Grazing and crop lands sprawl across one third of the planet’s land surface, with under 25 percent of that surface escaping significant impacts of human activity, according to IPBES, although scientists estimate that figure will plunge to under 10 percent by 2050. As the population grows, there will be an even higher demand for food and biofuels , and researchers think pesticide and fertilizer use could double by 2050. Scholes said around four billion people will reside in drylands in a little over 30 years, and by then land degradation and climate change could force “50 to 700 million people to migrate.” Social instability could be a consequence of decreasing land productivity; “particularly in dryland areas, where years with extremely low rainfall have been associated with an increase of up to 45 percent in violent conflict.” The researchers pointed to an array of options for land restoration; for example, planting native species , developing green infrastructure like parks , or river channel restoration in urban locations. IPBES’s statement said humanity can attempt to avoid agricultural expansion into native habitats by increasing yields on farmlands that already exist and by shifting toward eating habits that don’t degrade land to the same extent, such as  plant-based diets. IPBES chair Sir Robert Watson said, “Of the many valuable messages in the report, this ranks among the most important: implementing the right actions to combat land degradation can transform the lives of millions of people across the planet, but this will become more difficult and more costly the longer we take to act.” + Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Via Agence France Presse Images via Depositphotos (1 , 2 )

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Land degradation could displace 50 to 700 million people by 2050

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