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land degradation


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A noted decrease in, or any adverse influence on, the carrying capacity of land, revealed by: decreased soil fertility; increased soil erosion; removal of vegetation cover; and general negative changes in land use which compromise the supply and quality of ground and surface water, biodiversity, the carbon-oxygen cycle, and general air quality (anon. (2000) Mine Policy & Mine Monitoring Unit). Land degradation is seen as ‘an unavoidable by-product of mining’; but see Singh (2004) EnviroNews 10, 1.

In Australia, land clearing and the use of European farming systems have been major causes of severe land degradation, including salinization and erosion (Pannell and Ewing (2006) Agric. Water Manage. 80, 1–3). Douglas (2006) Geog. Res. 44, 2 links globalization in South-East Asia with land degradation, but finds that local changes may have a greater impact. Davis (2006) Geog. J. 172, 2 finds that land degradation in dryland Morocco is commonly blamed on overgrazing, despite existing evidence that ploughing marginal lands and over-irrigation are the primary drivers: ‘all too often the outcomes of neoliberal reforms on the environment…include increased pollution of air, earth and water, and land degradation in the form of deforestation, soil exhaustion, salinization and erosion.’ Thornes (2007) Geog. Res. 45, 1 emphasizes the need to take forage ecology into account when managing grazing in relation to land degradation.

Mambo and Archer (2007) Area 39, 3 use remote sensing to detect and map susceptibility to land degradation, and Kiunsi and Meadows (2006) Land Deg. & Dev. 17 present a land degradation model. See also A. Conacher (2001).

Subjects: Earth Sciences and Geography.


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