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Land Degradation

Humans need increasingly more biomass for food, fodder, fiber and energy. In Africa, circa 22% of the vegetated land surface showed a decline or unstable land productivity between 1999 and 2013. Persistent reduction of land productivity points to long-term alteration of the health and productive capacity of the land, which are characteristic of land degradation. It has impact on ecosystem services and benefits, thus on the sustainable livelihoods of human communities. This map shows the dynamics of (vegetated) land productivity over a time period, in other terms the trajectories of above-ground biomass. It reflects changes in ecosystem functioning e.g. vegetation growth cycles due to natural variation and/or human intervention, and can be associated with processes of land degradation or recovery. The 5 classes depict two levels of persistent productivity decline, one level of instability or stress in capacity, one level of stable productivity and one level of increased productivity.

* Cherlet, M., Hutchinson, C., Reynolds, J., Hill, J., Sommer, S., von Maltitz, G. (Eds.). (2018). World Atlas of Desertification. Publication Office of the European Union, Luxembourg. * Ivits, W., & Cherlet, M.(2013). Land-Productivity Dynamics: Towards integrated assessment of land degradation at global scales. Technical report of the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission EUR 26052; doi:10.2788/59315 * Sommer, S., Cherlet, M. & Ivits, E. (2017). Mapping land productivity dynamics: detecting critical trajectories of global land transformations. In: The Global Land Outlook (first edition), United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. Annex Two; pp 321 – 333. Bonn, Germany


To identify critical land degradation zones, land productivity must be analysed within the context of land use practices and other environmental changes, such as rainfall and atmospheric fertilization. Also an increased productivity is sometimes achieved at the cost of other land resources, such as water or soil, in which case it can lead to degradation, which is observable only in later stages.

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