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Keywords:

  • Mediterranean region;
  • land use;
  • land degradation;
  • crop production;
  • biodiversity;
  • demography;
  • climate change;
  • food security

ABSTRACT

The Mediterranean region covers about 854 million ha, but only 118 million (or 14 per cent) are suitable for agricultural production. In North Africa and the Middle East (MENA), agricultural land covers about 5 per cent; in Egypt and Algeria, it occupies less than 4 per cent and, in Libya, less than 2 per cent of the total national land area. Across the Mediterranean region land use divides between natural pastures/rangelands (ca. 15 per cent), forests and woodlands (ca. 8 per cent), with the ca. 63 per cent remaining desert sands, shallow, rocky, saline, sodic soils and areas effectively sealed by urbanisation. Land degradation is a severe problem in most Mediterranean countries. Estimates for the period 1961 to 2020 show that although the Mediterranean population is likely to more than double, ca. 8.3 million ha of agricultural land (7 per cent) may be lost as a result of continued urbanisation and land degradation. If these estimates are correct, agricultural land per capita would more than halve from ca. 0.48 ha (1961) to ca. 0.21 ha in 2020. Food security is likely to become increasingly problematic, especially in the MENA countries, which require a major reassessment of their agricultural development policy. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.