Land degradation: Multiple environmental consequences and routes to neutrality
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Degradation is currently affecting 25% of Earth's land and 40% of Earth's agricultural land. The environmental consequences of land degradation are vast, including amplified soil losses, water quality deterioration, biodiversity decline and degradation of ecosystem services and corresponding values, especially if actual land uses disrespect capability (natural use), in which cases land is in a state of environmental conflict. The global cost of land degradation just looking to agriculture approaches US$ 500 billion/yr. Facing this terrible ecological and economic scenarios, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the “Sustainable Development Goals” in 2015, which comprise a target to combat desertification and restore degraded land. The aim is to achieve land degradation neutrality by 2030. Framework models have already been proposed to unpack this innovative concept and address its operation through the Rio Conventions. While implementing these models, which follow the response hierarchy of avoid > reduce > reverse land degradation, environmental consequences of land degradation should be compensated by sustainable land management practices that render the Earth no net loss of the land-based natural capital relative to a baseline. The ultimate goal is however to attain self sustainability whereby environmental and production potentials are supported by self-regulating processes within the system.