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Environment / Sustainability

CSU, UN, top universities and agencies coordinate to combat global land degradation

August 21, 2009

Colorado State University, the United Nations, and top universities and agencies, are coordinating science strategies to combat global land degradation.

Colorado State hosted meeting Aug. 13

CSU's support to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, or UNCCD, continued with a meeting in Fort Collins on Aug. 13. The meeting focused on ways to better monitor and assess trends in global land degradation, an issue that impacts 31 million Americans and the survival of more than one third of the world population. Attendees supported the creation of a panel much like that used to support the UN Climate Change Convention, the Nobel prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC.

“Combating desertification and mitigating the effects of drought are challenges whose importance must be recognized within the context of climate change, global environmental governance and sustainable development. Under climate change scenarios, the drylands are expected to expand. By 2020, in some countries, rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by 50 percent”, said Douglas Pattie, the UN's senior policy analyst on desertification issues.

Channel scientific expertise

The one-day meeting gathered the U.S. scientific community in order to identify and examine ways to channel scientific expertise for political decision-makers working in the UNCCD process.

Representatives from the UNCCD, Texas Tech University, New Mexico State University, USDA, the Heinz Center, Bureau of Land Management, University of Colorado's Natural Hazard Center and the Consortium for Capacity Building, the International Center for Research in the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the global consortium of agencies and universities, the Dryland Science for Desertification (DSD) met with the objective of improving communications between international, regional and national research and scientific institutions that would facilitate the flow of scientific information on land degradation and desertification.

Millions of hectares of arable land lost every year

Some 20 million hectares of arable land are lost every year to desertification and land degradation. Globally an estimated 1 billion people are affected, particularly in Brazil, West Africa and India. Land degradation costs $40 billion annually on the global scale, not including the hidden costs such as the need for increased fertilization, the loss of biodiversity, poor health and malnutrition.

“The meeting has provided critical inputs from the U.S. scientific community in the run-up to the UNCCD's Ninth Conference of Parties. We are delighted that a major global UN convention is looking at CSU to influence and show leadership on how science should contribute to the international deliberations on land degradation, its relation to climate change and soil carbon accounting issues in the coming years,” said Michael Manfredo who heads CSU’s Human Dimensions of Natural Resources Department and the Department of Forest, Rangeland and Watershed Stewardship.

International meeting in Buenos Aires during Sept.

The UNCCD Ninth Conference of Parties and its International Scientific Conference will be held in Buenos Aires during September of this year. It is anticipated that the meeting will sound a call to action on land degradation issues. The development of an IPCC-like panel will provide objective, open and transparent information for understanding desertification and drought, its potential impacts and options for sustainable land management.
“CSU is clearly playing a large role as the sherpa for the U.S. science community,” Pattie said. “The political agenda setting of land degradation and soil as a human security issue is just beginning. Building on the CSU experience in social and ecological sciences is critical.”

Contact: Kimberly Sorensen
Phone: (970) 491-0757