Skip to 0 minutes and 10 secondsThe recent report by the International Panel on Climate Change states with high confidence-- extreme climate and weather events will reduce food production with far-reaching influences on crops, livestock, and fisheries, and will change the prevalence of crop pests. These impacts on the food systems are expected to be widespread, complex, graphically and temporally variable, and profoundly influenced by socioeconomic conditions. Climate change effects on food production can be categorized into six distinct impacts, including the inundation of agriculture land and saline intrusion due to sea level rise, desertification due to drought, flood damage and soil erosion, typhoon damage to food crops, cattle, and agriculture facilities, reduced plant and livestock growth due to cold, and reduced yields due to pests and diseases.

Skip to 1 minute and 13 secondsAs a consequence of the vast impact of increasing climate change on food production systems, food security may be threatened. These effects are more severe in poor countries and result in food crisis such as famine and poverty. Throughout the rest of this week, we will explore what climate change means for soil, water, plant, and animal health. Human and ecological systems rely on soil for the provision of water and nutrients for plant growth, the regulation of the water cycle, and the storage of carbon.

Skip to 1 minute and 49 secondsClimate change-- that is, increases in temperature, changing precipitation patterns, floods, and droughts will affect the health of soil - defined by its capacity to perform agronomic functions, including sustainable production of crops and animals while maintaining and improving the environment. The inter-relations between climate change and changes in soil quality are complex and there is a lot of research ongoing in this area. There is a strong link between soil health, food production, and human health. Worryingly, the projected climate change may adversely impact soil health and formation due to its influence on soil structure, stability, topsoil water holding capacity, nutrient availability, and erosion. One of the greatest effects on soil health are a result of water.

Skip to 2 minutes and 43 secondsIn many areas, rainfall has become either increasingly abundant or in desperately short supply relative to long-term averages. Extreme downpours can lead to runoff and erosion because the soil cannot absorb the precipitation at the rate it is falling. This strips healthy soil of key micro and macronutrients needed to sustain agriculture. In the most extreme cases, a rigorous downpour in an area without adequate trees to hold the soil in place can trigger a landslide. In coastal areas, sea level rise may lead to an increase in groundwater salinization and salty sea floods further inland. Consequently, this will compromise the availability of fresh water, including that used for primary production in agriculture.

Skip to 3 minutes and 35 secondsConversely, reduced precipitation coupled with increasing heat will cause desertification and the loss of farm production in some areas. Frequent droughts and enhanced evaporation kill off the vital living soil ecosystems necessary to grow healthy crops while leaving less water to dilute pollutants.

Climate Change and its Impact on Soil Health

Soil health refers to the soil’s ability to produce crops and animals sustainably, while maintaining and improving the environment.

Climate change may adversely impact soil health by reducing the amount of organic matter in the soil, harming the structure of the soil; and increasing its vulnerability to erosion and other degradation processes.

Water has one of the greatest effects on soil health. Extreme downpours can lead to run off and erosion. This strips the soil of key nutrients needed to sustain agriculture. In coastal areas, sea level rise may also lead to an increase in ground water salinization as the salty sea floods further inland. Consequently, this will compromise the availability of fresh water used for primary production in agriculture.

Conversely, reduced precipitation coupled with increasing heat will cause desertification and the loss of farm production in some areas. Frequent droughts and enhanced evaporation kill off the vital living soil ecosystems necessary to grow health crops whilst leaving less water to dilute pollutants.

What we would like you to do

Please watch the video introducing the implications of climate change. From the video and what you have learnt from the course so far please share your thoughts on the implications of climate change to food security. In the discussion area, you might want to consider the following:

  • Did you think climate change could threaten food security?

  • Are you surprised at how the different climate change effects interact with soil, water, plant and animal health and food production?

  • Have you learnt anything about the effect of climate change on food production that you had never considered before?

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Farm to Fork: Sustainable Food Production in a Changing Environment

EIT Food