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Unlocking the Sustainable Potential of Land Resources

Evaluation Systems, Strategies and Tools

image of Unlocking the Sustainable Potential of Land Resources

Land resources are one of nature’s most precious gifts. They feed us and help our societies and economies to thrive. Some 2.5 billion agricultural smallholders worldwide manage around 500 million small farms, providing more than 80 per cent of food consumed in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. These resources are being degraded at an alarming pace. An estimated 33 per cent of soil is moderately to highly-degraded due to erosion, nutrient depletion, acidification, salinization, compaction and chemical pollution. Each year we lose 24 billion tonnes of fertile soil and 15 billion trees, costing the economy around $40 billion. This report focuses on land potential evaluation systems as a critical foundation for land use planning and management. More specifically, land potential evaluation systems are needed to sustain and increase the provision of ecosystem services in the context of climate change, persistent land degradation and increasing global population and per-capita consumption levels.

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Policy options for applying land potential evaluation to land use planning and management

Land potential can be applied to partially decouple economic growth from (1) land degradation, (2) conversion of natural ecosystems to agriculture, and (3) conversion of natural and agricultural systems to biologically non-productive uses including urban, infrastructure, and many forms of energy production. It can be used to decouple economic growth from land degradation by limiting land management systems to those that are sustainable for each type of land. Conversion of natural systems to agriculture can be reduced using a knowledge of land potential to maintain and increase production on existing agricultural lands in three ways: (1) limitation of productivity declines caused by degradation, and (2) close yield gaps by better matching of production systems with land potential, and (3) targeting inputs to where they will result in the greatest return on investment and least harm to other ecosystem services.

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