DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan. 27 (Xinhua) -- Up to 849 million hectares of natural land, an area nearly the size of Brazil, may be degraded by 2050 should current trends of unsustainable land use continue, a report by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has warned.
The need to feed a growing number of people globally has led to more land being converted to cropland at the expense of the world's savannah, grassland and forests, which has resulted in widespread environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity, affecting an estimated 23 percent of global soil, the report said.
Agriculture currently consumes more than 30 percent of the world's land area, and cropland covers around 10 percent. The UNEP estimated that between 1961 and 2007, cropland expanded by 11 percent and the trend continues to grow.
"Recognizing that land is a finite resource, we need to become more efficient in the ways we produce, supply and consume our land-based products," UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said.
"We must be able to define and adhere to the boundaries within which the world can safely operate to save millions of hectares by 2050."
The report, produced by the International Resource Panel, outlines the need and options to balance consumption with sustainable production.
It focuses on land-based products, such as food, fuel and fibre, and describes methods to enable countries to determine whether their consumption levels exceed sustainable supply capacities.
Recommended measures are also included in the report to help countries reduce land demand and promote more sustainable land-use.
The UNEP presented the report, entitled "Assessing Global Land Use: Balancing Consumption with Sustainable Supply," during the World Economic Forum's annual meeting at the Swiss ski resort of Davos.