"Land is a delineable area of the earth's terrestrial surface, encompassing all attributes of the biosphere immediately above or below this surface including those of the near-surface climate the soil and terrain forms, the surface hydrology (including shallow lakes, rivers, marshes, and swamps), the near-surface sedimentary layers and associated groundwater reserve, the plant and animal populations, the human settlement pattern and physical results of past and present human activity (terracing, water storage or drainage structures, roads, buildings, etc.)."
- Convention to Combat Desertification (UN, 1994) -
Land is a fixed resource as the amount of available land on Earth is finite. The way in which land is used can have a profound impact on a local, national and global economy, both urban or rural use.
Land use is based on the functional dimension of land for different human purposes or economic activities.
Increasing human population, economic development and emerging global markets have driven unprecedented land-use change. Anticipated human population increases and continued economic growth are likely to further increase exploitation of land resources over the next 50 years .
Land use changes can have positive and negative effects on human well-being, and on the provision of ecosystem services (great increases in the human population and density, increased productivity, higher incomes and consumption patterns, and technological, political and climate change). Indeed, activities such as agriculture, forestry, transport and housing use land and alter its natural state and functions. Also, many environmental problems are rooted in the use of land; it leads to climate change, biodiversity loss and the pollution of water, soils and air.
Land use change is responding to national and international markets, resulting in more intensive land use and continued forest conversion, mainly to farmland. The most dynamic changes have been in forest cover and composition, expansion and intensification of cropland, and the growth of urban areas. Unsustainable land use drives land degradation through contamination and pollution, soil erosion and nutrient depletion. In some areas there is an excess of nutrients causing eutrophication, and there can be water scarcity and salinity.
Land degradation is a long-term loss of ecosystem function and services, caused by disturbances from which the system cannot recover by itself.
The Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD) defines “desertification as the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas. It is caused primarily by human activities and climatic variations” (art.1).
Land degradation can cause problems at three levels:
- At the field level, land degradation can result in reduced productivity.
- At the national level, land degradation can cause problems such as flooding and sedimentation.
- At the global level, land degradation can contribute to climate change, and to biodiversity and international waters.
Measures and Indicators
Land use and Land Cover Indicators, European Environmental Agency
Maps and Graphs
Maps and graps about land use, European Environmental Agency
About Land use and Land Cover, European Environmental Agency
European Environmental Agency, Land accounts for Europe 1990–2000 - Towards integrated land and ecosystem accounting, EEA Report No 11/2006. An understanding of the implications of changes in land cover and land use is a fundamental part of planning for sustainable development. The transformation of land cover and land use by human action can affect the integrity of natural resource systems and the output of ecosystem goods and services.
UNCCD, United Nation to Combact Desertification (pdf publication)
OECD Environmental Data, Compendium 2008
Environmental progress blogs
- Climate Progress Blog
- Science Progress Blog
- Global Climate Change Blog
- Climate Feedback Blog
- Climate of our Future Blog
- It's Getting Hot In Here Blog
- Climate Ark Blog
- De-Smog Blog
- Celsias Blog
- A Few Things Ill Considered Blog
- Real Climate Blog
Gender equality and land on Wikigender
- Women and Land Tenure - While women produce 60% - 80% of the world's food, they only own a small fraction of this land. This inequality in ownership rights has long and deep cultural roots, and it may have drastic effects food productivity and security in the near future.
FAO, Planning for sustainable use of land resources - Towards a new approach, FAO Land and Water Bulletin 2 (1995)
Stefano Pagiola, The Global Environmental Benefits of Land Degradation Control on Agricultural Land, World Bank Environment n.16 (1999)
- ↑ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - Special Report
- ↑ See more information on Global Environment Outlook - GEO4 (ch.3 and 9)
- ↑ See document: The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and its Political Dimension