High ranking panel chaired by ZEF director stresses the role of soils in the human-climate relationship

July 23, 2012.  

More than 200 people participated in the panel "Soil, land and food security: the challenges for science, economics and policy" which took place during the Euroscience Open Forum 2012 in Dublin on July 13.


The panelists Prof. Rattan Lal of Ohio State University, Dr. Ephraim Nkonya of IFPRI, Dr. Nicolas Gerber of ZEF and Prof. Gretchen Daily of Stanford University tackled the implications of soil-water-climate issues on food security, sustainable land use for the 21st century, the economics of land degradation and the valuation of natural capital.


Presentations of the panelists:

Rattan Lal: The soil-water-climate issues and implications for food security

Ephraim Nkonya: Sustainable land use for the 21st century

Nicolas Gerber: The Economics of Land Degradation and the

Costs of Action versus Inaction


The audience engaged the presenters in a stimulating session of Q&A. The addressed topics ranged from the state of research in recycling carbon from waste into soils, population growth and land degradation, the causes of decreasing growth rates in agricultural yields, land grabbing, managing the competition between fuel and food production, or the limits to sustainable ecosystem services use.



Food security depends to a considerable extent on the use of land, water, and soils. The risk for food security due to unsustainable land and soil use is under-researched and under-valued. Food security will remain a problem for the world, increasingly so due to the existing drivers of change on the demand and supply side: increasing world population with changing tastes, increasing demand for biofuel and an increasing purchasing power for resource-intensive food products on one side, decreasing growth in agricultural productivity and decreasing opportunities for further land conversion (to agriculture) on the other side.


Climate change affects the complex and fragile relationships between drivers and adds further feedback effects, risks and volatility elements to them. The overall impact of these changes is an increasing competition for land. The role of soils in the process of climate change has been under-valued in comparison to other elements of the human-climate relationship, despite the large potential of soils as biological carbon sinks.


Scientists, economists, and policy analysts must come together to achieve a comprehensive assessment of the costs of soil and land degradation at the global scale.



Joachim von Braun

Prof. Dr. Joachim von Braun