Several previous IPCC assessment reports include brief discussions of land degradation. In AR5 WGIII land degradation is one factor contributing to uncertainties of the mitigation potential of land-based ecosystems, particularly in terms of fluxes of soil carbon (Smith et al. 2014, p. 817). In AR5 WGI, soil carbon was discussed comprehensively but not in the context of land degradation, except forest degradation (Ciais et al. 201346) and permafrost degradation (Vaughan et al. 201347). Climate change impacts were discussed comprehensively in AR5 WGII, but land degradation was not prominent. Land-use and land-cover changes were treated comprehensively in terms of effects on the terrestrial carbon stocks and flows (Settele et al. 201548) but links to land degradation were, to a large extent, missing. Land degradation was discussed in relation to human security as one factor which, in combination with extreme weather events, has been proposed to contribute to human migration (Adger et al. 201449), an issue discussed more comprehensively in this chapter (Section 4.7.3). Drivers and processes of degradation by which land-based carbon is released to the atmosphere and/or the long-term reduction in the capacity of the land to remove atmospheric carbon and to store this in biomass and soil carbon, have been discussed in the methodological reports of IPCC (IPCC 200650, 2014a51) but less so in the assessment reports.
Effectively addressing land degradation through implementation of bioenergy and land-based CDR will require site-specific local knowledge, matching of species with the local land, water balance, nutrient and climatic conditions, ongoing monitoring and, where necessary, adaptation of land management to ensure sustainability under global change (Fritsche et al. 2017736). Effective land governance mechanisms including integrated land-use planning, along with strong sustainability standards could support deployment of energy crops and afforestation/reforestation at appropriate scales and geographical contexts (Fritsche et al. 2017737). Capacity-building and technology transfer through the international cooperation mechanisms of the Paris Agreement could support such efforts. Modelling to inform policy development is most useful when undertaken with close interaction between model developers and other stakeholders including policymakers to ensure that models account for real world constraints (Dooley and Kartha 2018738).
How and where we grow food, compared to where and when we need to consume it, is at the crux of issues surrounding land degradation, climate change and food security, especially because more than 75% of the global land surface (excluding Antarctica) faces rain-fed crop production constraints (Fischer et al. 2009867), see also Chapter 5. Taken separately, knowledge on land degradation processes and human-induced climate change has attained a great level of maturity. However, their combined effects on food security, notably food supply, remain underappreciated (Webb et al. 2017b868), and quantitative information is lacking. Just a few studies have shown how the interactive effects of the aforementioned challenging, interrelated phenomena can impact on crop productivity and hence food security and quality (Karami et al. 2009869; Allen et al. 2001870; Högy and Fangmeier 2008871) (low evidence). Along with socio-economic drivers, climate change accelerates land degradation due to its influence on land-use systems (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005872; UNCCD 2017873), potentially leading to a decline in agri-food system productivity, particularly on the supply side. Increases in temperature and changes in precipitation patterns are expected to have impacts on soil quality, including nutrient availability and assimilation (St.Clair and Lynch 2010874). Those climate-related changes are expected to have net negative impacts on agricultural productivity, particularly in tropical regions, though the magnitude of impacts depends on the models used. Anticipated supply-side issues linked to land and climate relate to biocapacity factors (including e.g., whether there is enough water to support agriculture); production factors (e.g., chemical pollution of soil and water resources or lack of soil nutrients) and distribution issues (e.g., decreased availability of and/or accessibility to the necessary diversity of quality food where and when it is needed) (Stringer et al. 2011875). Climate-sensitive transport infrastructure is also problematic for food security (Islam et al. 2017), and can lead to increased food waste, while poor siting of roads and transport links can lead to soil erosion and forest loss (Xiao et al. 2017877), further feeding back into climate change.
Over the past decades, crop models have been useful tools for assessing and understanding climate change impacts on crop productivity and food security (White et al. 2011878; Rosenzweig et al. 2014879). Yet, the interactive effects of soil parameters and climate change on crop yields and food security remain limited, with low evidence of how they play out in different economic and climate settings (e.g., Sundström et al. 2014880). Similarly, there have been few meta-analyses focusing on the adaptive capacity of land-use practices such as conservation agriculture in light of climate stress (see e.g., Steward et al. 2018881), as well as low evidence quantifying the role of wild foods and forests (and, by extension, forest degradation) in both the global food basket and in supporting household-scale food security (Bharucha and Pretty 2010882; Hickey et al. 2016883).
Responses to land degradation generally take the form of agronomic measures (methods related to managing the vegetation cover), soil management (methods related to tillage, nutrient supply), and mechanical methods (methods resulting in durable changes to the landscape) (Morgan 2005a937). Measures may be combined to reinforce benefits to land quality, as well as improving carbon sequestration that supports climate change mitigation. Some measures offer adaptation options and other co-benefits, such as agroforestry, involving planting fruit trees that can support food security in the face of climate change impacts (Reed and Stringer 2016938), or application of compost or biochar that enhances soil water-holding capacity, so increases resilience to drought.
In practice, responses are anchored in scientific research, as well as local, indigenous and traditional knowledge and know-how. For example, studies in the Philippines by Camacho et al. (2016) 25examine how traditional integrated watershed management by indigenous people sustain regulating services vital to agricultural productivity, while delivering co-benefits in the form of biodiversity and ecosystem resilience at a landscape scale. Although responses can be site specific and sustainable at a local scale, the multi-scale interplay of drivers and pressures can nevertheless cause practices that have been sustainable for centuries to become less so. Siahaya et al. (2016) 1026explore the traditional knowledge that has informed rice cultivation in the uplands of East Borneo, grounded in sophisticated shifting cultivation methods (gilir balik) which have been passed on for generations (more than 200 years) in order to maintain local food production. Gilir balik involves temporary cultivation of plots, after which, abandonment takes place as the land user moves to another plot, leaving the natural (forest) vegetation to return. This approach is considered sustainable if it has the support of other subsistence strategies, adapts to and integrates with the local context, and if the carrying capacity of the system is not surpassed (Siahaya et al. 20161027). Often gilir balik cultivation involves intercropping of rice with bananas, cassava and other food crops. Once the abandoned plot has been left to recover such that soil fertility is restored, clearance takes place again and the plot is reused for cultivation. Rice cultivation in this way plays an important role in forest management, with several different types of succession forest being found in the study by Siahaya et al. (2016). Nevertheless, interplay of these practices with other pressures (large-scale land acquisitions for oil palm plantation, logging and mining), risk their future sustainability. Use of fire is critical in processes of land clearance, so there are also trade-offs for climate change mitigation, which have been sparsely assessed.
(Cote and Nightingale 20121177; Olsson et al. 20151178; Cretney 20141179; Béné et al. 20121180; Joseph 20131181). In the case of adaptation to climate change (and particularly regarding limits to adaptation), a crucial ambiguity of resilience is the question of whether resilience is a normative concept (i.e., resilience is good or bad) or a descriptive characteristic of a system (i.e., neither good nor bad). Previous IPCC reports have defined resilience as a normative (positive) attribute (see AR5 Glossary), while the wider scientific literature is divided on this (Weichselgartner and Kelman 20151182; Strunz 20121183; Brown 20141184; Grimm and Calabrese 20111185; Thorén and Olsson 20181186). For example, is outmigration from a disaster-prone area considered a successful adaptation (high resilience) or a collapse of the livelihood system (lack of resilience) (Thorén and Olsson 20181187)? In this report, resilience is considered a positive attribute when it maintains capacity for adaptation, learning and/or transformation.
Adaptive, multi-level and participatory governance of social-ecological systems is considered important for regime shifts and transitions to take place (Wieczorek 20181216) and essential to secure the capacity of environmental assets to support societal development over longer time periods (Folke et al. 20051217). There is also recognition that effective environmental policies and programmes need to be informed by a comprehensive understanding of the biophysical, social, and economic components and processes of a system, their complex interactions, and how they respond to different changes (Kelly (Letcher) et al. 2013). But blueprint policies will not work, due to the wide diversity of rules and informal institutions used across sectors and regions of the world, especially in traditional societies (Ostrom 20091218). 2b1af7f3a8