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LAND AND L AND FUNCTIONS

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Land is one of the most essential natural resources for the survival and prosperity of humankind, and it is the platform on which human activities take place. It is also the source of materials needed for these activities. The literature offers several definitions of land and land resources, one of them comes from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO): “Land and Land Resources refer to 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 and geohydrological 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.)” (FAO/UNEP, 1997). This definition highlights that land includes all material components needed for human activity. If land resources are to support and ensure continuity of human activity on a sustainable basis, these various components must be preserved and allowed to interact in a balanced way. This implies that land has many functions that need to be taken into consideration when planning development, to ensure that an efficient and balanced allocation of land resources results. These functions are:

• Productive: land underpins many life support systems, through production of biomass that provides food, fodder, fiber, fuel, timber and other biotic materials for human use, either directly or through animal husbandry including aquaculture, and inland and coastal fisheries; • Biotic environmental: land is the basis of terrestrial biodiversity – it provides the biological habitats and gene reserves for plants, animals and micro-organisms, above and below ground;

• Climate regulation: land and its use are a source and sink of greenhouse gases, and form a co-determinant of the global energy balance – along with reflection, absorption and transformation of the sun’s radioactive energy, and the global hydrological cycle;

• Hydrologic: land regulates the storage and flow of surface and groundwater resources, and influences their quality;

• Storage: land is a storehouse of raw materials and minerals for human use;

• Waste and pollution control: land absorbs, filters, buffers and transforms many hazardous compounds;

• Living space: land provides the physical basis for human settlements and everything done from there - from industry to sports and recreation;

• Archive or heritage: land stores and protects the evidence of the cultural history of humankind; it is also a source of information on past climatic conditions and past land uses; and

• Connective space: land provides space for the transport of people, inputs and products, and for the movement of plants and animals between discrete areas of natural ecosystems (FAO, 1995). L


LAND USE: CONCEPT DEFINITION AND GLOBAL STATISTICS

Land allows for a variety of uses and can satisfy a diverse range of objectives. Land use is a basic element in human activity. Much of what we humans do requires land (Young, 1998). Thus, the concept of land use refers to a series of activities done to generate one or more products or services. The same land use can occur on several different parcels of land, and reciprocally, the same land may have several uses. An activity-based definition of land use allows for a detailed quantitative analysis of both economic and environmental impacts, as well as enabling different land uses to be clearly distinguished (FAO, 1998b). Globally1, the available country area was 136,096,598 km2 including 130,121,447 km2 for land area and 5,975,151 km2 for inland water. The land area is divided among different types of use. Agricultural land accounts for 49,322,388 km2 (arable land accounts for 14,121,800 km2 and permanent crops 1,426,704 km2); forests: 39,394,070km2; and other land 2 represents 41,404,989 km2. Figure 1 shows these broad uses (2009 data). LAND USE: CONCEPT DEFINITION AND 2 GLOBAL STATISTICS 1 Worldstat info website: http://en.worldstat.info/World/Land 2 Other land: Land used for aquaculture, land occupied by buildings, parks and ornamental gardens. 3 Appendix 1 provides detailed statistics for each geographic region. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND If land resources are to support continuing human activities in a sustainable way, then other functions of the land need to be kept in balance. Land is highly sought for various human activities. Such activities (current or future) depend, to a greater or lesser degree, on the surface of the earth, its minerals, its water and its other renewable and non-renewable resources. Generally, the same parcel of land cannot be used for more than one object simultaneously; this generates competition between different land-use activities for a piece of land (Young, 1998). Figure 2 illustrates the potential uses for land in different parts of the world.

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