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Sustainable land management in different land use contexts


Land use types provide a helpful lens to approach SLM, as the way in which land is used can partly explain what drives DLDD, and what actions could be applied to reduce or reverse the damages. When viewed from this perspective, different types of SLM technologies can be more easily associated with, or be considered suitable for addressing DLDD in a given land use type.


Croplands are lands that are used for the cultivation of crops (WOCAT, 2016). According to the IPCC 2006 Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories, this can include “all annual and perennial crops as well as temporary fallow land (i.e., land set at rest for one or several years before being cultivated again) [and] arable land which is normally used for cultivation of annual crops but which is temporarily used for forage crops or grazing as part of an annual crop-pasture rotation (mixed system)” (IPCC, 2006).

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Forests/woodlands are lands where the predominant land use and canopy cover consist of trees. This includes natural or semi-natural forests composed mainly of indigenous trees, plantations, or other planted forest areas, with monoculture or mixed tree varieties (WOCAT, 2016). The area could be for used various purposes, such as conservation, wood production, or recreation.

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Grazing land

Grazing lands are lands where grass or grass-like vegetation grows and is the dominant form of plant life, and are used mainly for animal production. Grazing lands cover a broad range of land use types and include:

  • Pastures: a field covered with grass or herbage and suitable for grazing by livestock;
  • Savannahs: flat grassland in tropical or subtropical regions with scattered trees;
  • Steppes: temperate or tropical grassland that only has trees near lakes and rivers; located in places including southern Russia, central Asia, southern South America, the central United States and western Canada;
  • Hayfields: a field where grass or alfalfa are grown to be made into hay, and
  • Grasslands, which may be used, either partially or exclusively, as grazing land.

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Mixed land

Mixed land use systems combine two or more types of land use within the same land unit at a spatial or temporal scale, for example forest/woodland and cropland (WOCAT, 2016). This includes agroforestry (cropland and forest/woodland), agro-pastoralism (cropland and grazing land), agro-silvo-pastoralism (cropland, grazing land and forest/woodland), and silvo-pastoralism (forest/woodland and grazing land).

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Other land

Other land uses comprise usage that does not fall into the other land use types as defined by the report on sustainable land management by the UNCCD Science-Policy Interface (SPI). This includes mines and extractive industries, settlements, roads, infrastructure network, and others (wastelands, deserts, glaciers).

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Land use types

There are sustainable land management (SLM) options for all ecosystems, and SLM’s adaptability is what makes it a suitable vehicle to address the causes of desertification, land degradation, and drought (DLDD). However, its broadness can also make it difficult to identify, implement, and share SLM technologies and practices. One way to approach SLM is to apply it to particular land use types. Land use describes the type of activity being carried out on a unit of land, in urban, rural and conservation settings (IPCC, 2006), and land use type is a way of categorizing land based on how it is used.

The report on sustainable land management by the UNCCD Science-Policy Interface identified five major land use types (listed above), under which individual SLM technologies can be associated. The five types were adapted from WOCAT and Smith et al., (2014), but they also correspond broadly with land use types used by other international organizations, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for its Greenhouse Gas Inventory Guidelines and the Supply-side mitigation options in Agriculture, Forestry, and Other Land Use (AFOLU) (IPCC, 2006).


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