In the past 50 years, humanity has converted huge forested areas and peatlands for agriculture and construction – Cropland cover 44,6% of the land (Statbel, 2021) As built-up areas expand and agriculture becomes both more extensive and more intensive, landscapes are transformed, important ecosystem functions are lost, soils are degraded, and biodiversity is diminishing.

Moreover, deforestation has an impact on the climate, because natural forests are an important component of Earth’s climate system that can counteract climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide. Large-scale deforestation in the Amazon region is converting a carbon sink that absorbs carbon dioxide into a source of greenhouse gas emissions that has a negative impact on the climate.

If Earth’s forests absorb less carbon dioxide, larger amounts will remain in the atmosphere, leading to higher temperatures and reinforcing climate change. Moreover, changes in soil structure after deforestation could exacerbate droughts and flooding in extreme weather situations. Belgium has a low forest cover, mainly due to pressures for land from agriculture and urbanization.

Land transformation in more and more artificial and build environment affect the resilience of systems to floods, urban heat islands, etc. It is particularly true in Belgium where built environment makes us vulnerable both to droughts and floods because of soil having less capacity to retain water which causes drought and less capacity to absorb extreme rainfall which causes floods.

A specific factsheet including Belgian situation will be available for download June 24.

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