Environment | VOL. 12, ISSUE 73, July-August 2012

Land Degradation, Environment and Food Security

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, 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 has both, on-site and off-site effects. On-site effects are in terms of reduced/increased outputs (crop yields, livestock yields). Off-site effects on the other hand, are related to water erosion through changes in the water regime, including decline in river water quality and sedimentation of river beds and reservoirs. Land degradation undermines many of the fundamental processes especially nutrient, water and carbon cycling, which underwrite the integrity of ecosystems. Land degradation results from natural or anthropogenic causes, the former often determining the inherent capacity of the ecosystem to provide goods and services. Anthropogenic causes are determined by land use/changes and economic factors. The physical processes, which contribute to land degradation are primarily water and wind erosion, compaction, crusting and water logging. There are various modes of erosion by water such as splash, sheet, rill and gully erosion. The splash erosion results from the impact of raindrops on the soil surface. Splash erosion also causes soil disintegration (destruction of soil structure). Maintenance of vegetative cover can reduce the impact of...

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