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Title: Conservation practices for climate change mitigation and adaptation will be needed for food security in the 21st century

item Delgado, Jorge

Submitted to: European Soil Conservation Society
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/14/2014
Publication Date: 10/30/2014
Citation: Delgado, J.A. 2014. Conservation practices for climate change mitigation and adaptation will be needed for food security in the 21st century. European Soil Conservation Society. Vol 20.

Interpretive Summary: In the summer of 2013, one of the keynote presentations at the International Soil Conservation Organization (ISCO) meeting held in Medellin, Colombia was titled Conservation Practices Are Essential Land Management Strategies for Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation. This presentation covered recent publications related to the science of climate change and soil and water conservation and the SWCS position statement on the same topic. Following this keynote presentation, the ISCO’s Board of Directors is now considering adopting a similar position statement to the one adopted by the SWCS (see position statement at The SWCS position statement states that it is important to implement conservation practices (e.g., conservation practices that protect soil productivity) in order to maintain and/or achieve food security that will continue to be threatened by the world challenges that we are confronting during the XXI century. Healthy and productive soils will only become more important as the world population continues to grow. Climate change and extreme events present real challenges and necessitate the application of the principles listed above in order to develop sustainable systems and help ensure that there will be sufficient resources for long-term food security (Delgado et al., 2011, 2013; Walthall et al., 2012, SWCS position statement). Position statements like the one developed by the SWCS (, and publications produced by governmental agencies such as the USDA (Walthall et al., 2012) are key to increasing public awareness of the great challenges we will face in the 21st century and the importance of adaptation in responding to these challenges. A key message from these publications is that conservation practices are needed for climate change adaptation and protection of soil resources. If we do not protect our soils with conservation practices that help us adapt to climate change, the survival of the human species will be at risk (Delgado et al., 2013). Position statements about the importance of using conservation practices for climate change mitigation and adaptation go a long way in increasing awareness of this relationship by members of professional societies as well as the general public. The above information is already published and available (see provided web links and references), and may be a useful starting point of discussion for the European Society for Soil Conservation if they wish to consider developing their own position statement on conservation practices and climate change mitigation and adaptation or perhaps joining the SWCS in their position statement.

Technical Abstract: It has been documented across the peer-reviewed scientific literature that the challenges that we will have during the XXI century such as climate change, depletion of water resources needed for agricultural production, and higher demand for food and fiber due to a larger global population, will place great pressure on agroecosystems across the world that could threaten the potential to maintain and/or increase food security during this century. Climate change and extreme events (e.g., floods, severe drought periods) are impacting fragile agroecosystems. One of the impacts of climate change and these extreme events is a higher potential for soil erosion, so it is essential to develop and implement policies that increase air, soil, and water conservation throughout the world to increase the potential to increase productivity and maintain and/or achieve food security (Delgado et al. 2011, Figure 1). World agroecosystems will be faced with greater production demands as an additional 2.5 billion people are added to the human population by 2050. In 2011, the Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS) invited a group of scientists to review the scientific literature on conservation practices and climate change (Delgado et al., 2011). The team published a feature article in a 2011 issue of the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation that reviewed the scientific literature and identified some key principles for mitigation of and adaptation to climate change (Delgado et al. 2011). The SWCS used the Delgado et al. (2011) Feature paper as a scientific reference to develop its “Position Statement on Climate Change and Soil and Water Conservation,” and a press release announcing the creation of the position statement. In the position statement, the SWCS stated that “soil and water conservation practices can play a major role in the mitigation of agriculture’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation to changes in seasonal precipitation and temperature patterns.” The SWCS also stated that stakeholders in government and the non-profit and private sectors should apply soil and water conservation principles such as increasing soil carbon levels when selecting and promoting conservation practices for climate change mitigation and adaptation. The Delgado et al. (2011) paper, the SWCS press release, the SWCS position statement, and additional materials are available to download at Following are the principles that were listed in the Delgado et al. (2011) feature article and that were used to develop the SWCS position statement.