Impacts of land use on water and soil resources

The increasing global demand for agricultural products combine with the severe water scarcity that characterizes many of the world’s regions is placing unprecedented pressure on water resources. Similarly, intense agricultural use of soils not infrequently exceeds soil resilience so that the rate of erosion in many agricultural areas greatly exceeds soil formation, leading to severe land degradation (i.e., modified soil physical and chemical properties, alteration of carbon and nutrient cycles) and subsequently reduced agricultural potential

At CHANGE, we seek to devise strategies for water and soil resource management in agriculture. To this purpose, we use and develop mathematical frameworks for the assessment of soil and water sustainability and use them to quantify the impact of agricultural land use and climatic variations on the environment.


Water sustainability of South African crop production. Country level values of green and blue (a) average virtual water content (VWC), (b) total water footprint (WF), and (c) average water debt (WD) for the reference year 2000. Box plots were obtained as averages from five climate models, error bars show the maximum and minimum values obtained from the different climate models. The red dashed line in panel (c) marks the value of WD = 1 year. Spatial distribution of (d) percentage of blue WF and (e) WD values at the grid level. From Bonetti et al, ERL (2022).