When discussing the threats rising sea levels, one of the many devastating effects of climate change, pose to our planet and the human population, degradation of agricultural land usually gets overshadowed by more immediate consequences like flooding and severe storms. Perhaps the effects on farming land rising sea levels have don’t get discussed as much because the effects loom in an unimaginable future. Degradation, in this case, means losing precious land to grow our food on and on a planet that is expected to have almost 10 billion people in 30 years.
As much as our main goal should be to minimise our carbon consumption as the human specifies and stop the seas from rising, what we also need is pragmatic and plausible solutions to our farming lands changing structure. Are lands that are affected by seawater a lost cause? Can degraded land be revived to feed humanity? The EU-funded project SalFar is looking to answer these questions.
Global warming, a symptom of climate change, is the main contributing factor to the level rise in Earth’s oceans. The oceans constitute the majority of our planet's surface, meaning they absorb the majority of the heat that’s released and when water gets warmer, it expands, thus causing a rise in sea levels. The same global warming also affects glaciers and ice-sheets, causing them to melt at an unprecedented speed, adding to the already risen sea levels.
This rise in the levels of our oceans can cause natural disasters like flooding and stronger, more frequent storms, but they also pose a silent threat that is degradation of soil. As sea levels rise, saltwater seeps into inner land and farming soil gets contaminated by saltwater, becoming saline even if it’s further inland. In the current state of farming, saline soil means devastation for a farmer as it’s claimed degraded and becomes unfit for food production.
Essentially focused on the farmlands in the North Sea Region, SalFar explores the potentials of growing food on saline soil with a team of experts that cover all areas. Biologists, economists, educators, farmers, entrepreneurs and policymakers work together to ensure food security for the ever-growing human species.
What they have found is promising. Turns out, there are many edible crops that are tolerant of saline soil. “[...] Crops like potato, cabbage, carrot, and onion, and halophytes, like Salicornia and ice plant, are most suitable for moderate saline conditions and the halophytes are even suitable for cultivation up to seawater salinity”, says SalFar Project Manager Angelica Kraus.
Not only such crops are suitable for saline soils, growing in such soil gives these crops different taste profiles, opening up new opportunities for farmers and entrepreneurs.
According to SalFar, we shouldn’t abandon farming lands salinised by rising sea levels, on the contrary, such lands - and not just in the North Sea Region, have a vast potential to feed the world.