Once human beings lived a nomadic life, hunting and gathering food as they travelled. Their lives had little effect on the ecosystems of the planet: Gradually, some nomadic peoples began to domesticate animals such as goats and sheep. By taking animals with them on their travels, they ensured a constant supply of milk, meat, skins and wool. But it was when they began to grow crops and settle in one place that humans really began to change the face of the Earth.

          In huge areas of the world, natural vegetation has been ploughed up so that crops can be grown. Vast European forests were cleared for farming hundreds of years ago. Large areas of the prairies of America have been cultivated within the last two hundred years. Today the clearance still goes on as rainforests are felled. Even where land has not been ploughed, over-grazing by cattle can destroy grasslands.

          Agriculture is the world’s largest industry. It employs more than one billion people and generates over $1.3 trillion dollars’ worth of food annually. Pasture and cropland occupy around 50 percent of the Earth’s habitable land and provide habitat and food for a multitude of species.

          When agricultural operations are sustainably managed, they can preserve and restore critical habitats, help protect watersheds, and improve soil health and water quality. But unsustainable practices have serious impacts on people and the environment.

          The need for sustainable resource management is increasingly urgent. Demand for agricultural commodities is rising rapidly as the world's population grows. Agriculture’s deep connections to the world economy, human societies and biodiversity make it one of the most important frontiers for conservation around the globe.

          When a forest is degraded it still exists, but it can no longer function well. It becomes a shell of its former self; its health declines until it can no longer support people and wildlife by, for example, filtering the air we breathe and water we drink or providing animals with food and places to live.

Picture Credit : Google