Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) Full Proposal 2017-2022
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Permanent link to cite or share this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10947/4298
WLE’s vision is for a world in which agriculture thrives within the vibrant ecosystems that support it while delivering enduring prosperity for farming communities. Global agriculture is one of humanity’s great success stories because we produce more food than ever before. But this success masks two uncomfortable truths. First, while responding to the rising demand for food, agricultural growth is depleting the natural resource base on which it depends. There is growing evidence that the impressive gains in yields in recent decades are beginning to plateau, and may not keep pace with future demand. In some regions, available water or soil fertility limitations have already been reached. Intensification of agriculture through unsustainable practices is eroding the natural resource base and over-stretching ecosystem services, especially in areas where capacity to enforce controls is constrained. Fortunately, there is also evidence that it is possible to combine sustainable intensification of agriculture with conserving natural capital under the right conditions (Hazell and Wood 2008; Pretty 2008; Pretty and Bharucha 2014). Second, there is a growing consensus that the Earth has entered an era in which human activity is a dominant factor affecting global climate, and hydrological and biosphere systems (e.g. IPCC 2014). One formulation posits the existence of nine planetary boundaries characterizing the Earth’s biophysical processes. Of these, three have already been crossed (climate change, biodiversity loss, and nitrogen cycle) and others are approaching the hypothesized boundaries, including the phosphorous cycle, land use, and freshwater use (Rockström et al. 2009, 2014)2. Agriculture is a major contributor to these anthropogenic trends. The combination of climate change, over-exploitation of water, degradation of soils, and loss of biodiversity are serious threats to food security and our future survival.