Toronto: An estimated 50 million people may be forced to seek new homes and livelihoods within 10 years due to land degradation, a study has estimated.
That many migrants assembled would constitute the world's 28th largest country by population, the study said.
Effectively addressing land degradation could help avert that humanitarian crisis and add $75.6 trillion to annual world income, according to a report published on Tuesday by The Economics of Land Degradation (ELD) Initiative.
"This study by ELD shows the immediate and global impact of land degradation and highlights that actions to tackle it pay off. Increased land degradation is also one of the factors that can lead to migration and it is being exacerbated by climate change,” said Karmenu Vella, European commissioner for environment, fisheries and maritime affairs.
The researchers found that land cover changes since year 2000 are responsible for half to 75 percent of the lost ecosystem services value.
They estimated the value of ecosystem services worldwide forfeited due to land degradation at a staggering $6.3 trillion to $10.6 trillion annually, or the equivalent of 10-17 percent of global GDP.
With guidance by United Nations University's Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health, the report culminates a four-year collaboration involving 30 renowned international research and policy institutes.
The report found that one third of the world is vulnerable to land degradation and one third of Africa is threatened by desertification.
Some 52 percent of world agricultural land is moderately or severely degraded, the study noted.
"Adequate management of agricultural and forestry land uses are amongst the lowest-cost actions that can reduce global warming, and most actions are either neutral cost or of positive net profit to society, requiring no substantial capital investment," the report said.
The report calls on countries to recognise the huge value of improved land management and to enhance institutional capacity and knowledge in the area, together with national policy, economic, legislative and regulatory frameworks.