Land Management can Improve Rural Economy

Nivedita Thapliyal

Land degradation indicates temporary or permanent long term decline in ecosystem function and productive capacity. It may refer to the destruction or deterioration in health of terrestrial ecosystems, thus affecting the associated biodiversity, natural ecological processes and ecosystem resilience. It also considers the reduction or loss of biological/ economic productivity and complexity of croplands, pasture, woodland, forest, etc.

Land degradation is increasing in severity and extent in many parts of the world, with more than 20% of all cultivated areas, 30% of forests and 10% of grasslands undergoing degradation (Bai et al., 2008). Millions of hectares of land per year are being degraded in all climatic regions. It is estimated that 2.6 billion people are affected by land degradation and desertification in more than a hundred countries, influencing over 33% of the earth's land surface (Adams and Eswaran, 2000). This is a global development and environmental issue highlighted at the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, the Convention on Biodiversity, the Kyoto protocol on global climate change and the millennium development goal (UNCED, 1992; UNFP, 2008).

The decline in land quality caused by human activities has been a major global issue since the 20th century and will remain high on the international agenda in the 21st century (Eswaran et al., 2001). The immediate causes of land degradation are inappropriate land use that leads to degradation of soil, water and vegetative cover and loss of both soil and vegetative biological diversity, affecting ecosystem structure and functions (Snel and Bot, 2003). Degraded lands are more susceptible to the adverse effects of climatic chance such as increased temperature and more severe droughts.

Land degradation encompasses the whole environment but includes individual factors concerning soils, water resources (surface, ground), forests (woodlands), grasslands (rangelands), croplands (rain fed, irrigated) and biodiversity (animals, vegetative cover, soil) (FAO, 2005).

On the other hand the NRC (1994) stressed that land degradation is complex and involves the interaction of changes in the physical, chemical and biological properties of the soil and vegetation. The complexity of land degradation means its definition differs from area to area, depending on the subject to be emphasized.

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