Rising Population puts strain on Soil
By Joshua S Hill
August 30, 2007
Soil degradation and vegetation loss may accelerate global warming, warned Iceland’s President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson.
“Soil and vegetation are being lost at an alarming rate around the globe, which in turn has devastating effects on food production and accelerates climate change,” said Grimsson, speaking before a meeting of 150 scientists and government experts that runs from August 31 to September 4 in his country. Grimsson said he hopes to find a solution to better protect soil from over-use and desertification.
Since 1900 Earth’s population has expanded from 1.7 billion to more 6.6 billion and is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. The increase will push the need to bring more land under cultivation in an already stretched landscape, say conference organizers.
“With a rising world population and biofuels, more land is needed,” said Andres Arnalds, the Icelandic head of the meeting’s organizing committee.
The setting for the desertification conference is ironic. Once blanked by up to 40% forest cover prior to the arrival of the Vikings, Iceland is now classified as almost barren. The experts will look for ways to improve soil productivity, use water more efficiently, and safeguard those animals and plants that have an intrinsic link to the regeneration and continued upkeep of the soil.
“We should be irrigating only the most productive soils, and then sparingly,” said Andrew Campbell, Australia’s first National Landcare Facilitator. “It’s not all doom and gloom. Many of the things we need to do are not radical.”