The Fertile Crescent (FC) is a high biodiversity region where most temperate-zone agricultural species originated and were first domesticated. A favourable environment, a special plant community and an adaptive population combined to initiate the transition from a hunter-gatherer economy to one based on agriculture and food production in the Fertile Crescent. However, over time, valuable plant genetic resources of the region are being eroded through degradation of natural habitats, intensification of the cultivation of arable lands, expansion of cultivation into marginal areas, replacement of diverse and widely adapted landraces by new cultivars based on a narrow genetic base, and over-exploitation of natural pastures and grazing lands. There is a serious risk that much of the inherent biodiversity will be lost unless a holistic approach to the management of ecosystems, based on sustainable agriculture and sustainable development, is implemented. Water scarcity is the key environmental factor and a major constraint to economic and social development in the Fertile Crescent. Inefficient and inequitable use of water is at the root of many problems in the region, and yet, effective solutions remain elusive. With 75% of water demand covered by virtual water imports, this region became the world's fastest in its dependence on imported food; such imports will remain, for the foreseeable future, the main option for adaptation to climate change. Climate change is expected to further reduce water availability; while water quality is a growing concern due to chemical pollution and soil salinity in irrigated lands. As the ancient FC was a cultural forerunner in solving the management problems of affluent agricultural societies, it might become a testing ground for managing water scarcity and depleted natural resources. Possible reorientation of agriculture, although very important but not a trivial challenge, will shape the welfare of its people for generations.
Authors and Publishers
Jaradat, A. A.
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