Is soil really in danger of running out?

  • About 60 years of topsoil left
  • Some 40% of soil used for agriculture around the world is degraded or seriously degraded
  • 70% of the topsoil, the layer allowing plants to grow, is gone


              Decline in worldwide the amount of cropland per capita

How does soil erosion happen?

  • Deforestation
  • Overexploitation for fuel wood
  • Overgrazing
  • Agricultural activities and industrialization


 The above figure illustrates the relative sizes of the causal mechanisms as a function of   region.

What happens if this isn’t addressed?

  • One is the loss of soil productivity:

We will produce 30% less food over the next 20-50 years

  • Second is that water will reach a crisis point:

Even moderately degraded soil will hold less a half of the water than

healthy soil does in the same location

Who will be impacted the most?

No continent is free from the problem. Areas of serious concern include zones where up to 75% of the topsoil has been lost already. The central portion of the United States is an area of particular local concern. Soil erosion is most serious in China, India and parts of South America. If the food supply goes down, then obviously, the price goes up. The crisis point will hit the poorest countries hardest, in particular those who rely on imports. The capacity of the planet to produce food is already causing conflict.


Of the world’s 1.2 billion hectares with moderate to severe soil degradation, the largest areas are in Asia and Africa. Central America has the highest percentage and worst degrees of soil degradation