Land Quality Indicatorsby Christian Pieri, Julian Dumanski, Ann Hamblin, Anthony Young
Maintenance of the productive potential of land resources, and checking of land degradation, is a fundamental element of sustainable land use. For this to be achieved, there is a fundamental need for indicators of land quality, the condition or ' health ' of land. Land quality indicators are similar to the economic and social indicators already in use. It is only by means of indicators that changes in land quality can be monitored and policy or management action taken. A global coalition of international and national institutions, led by the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Environment Programme and the United Nations Development Organization, are developing a system of land quality indicators for this purpose, concentrating in the first instance on productive agro-ecosystems. Land quality indicators are of three kinds: 1) indicators of pressure upon land resources; 2) indicators of changes in the state of land quality; and 3) indicators of responses by society to these changes. The present effort is focused upon indicators for application at district and national/international scales. Two groups of examples of land quality indicators are given. The first is based on results from two regional workshops, aimed at identifying key land issues and appropriate indicators for some major agro-ecological zones of the tropics and subtropics. The second group sets out pressure, state and response indicators applicable to major problems of land degradation. Sources of data and information of indicators are reviewed. A program of work is outlined for the development of cost-effective ways of obtaining internationally-agreed sets ofland quality indicators. Because of the urgency of the situation, initial activities will be based on making best use of existing methods and sources of data. This will show where gaps in knowledge exist, and work can then progress towards the collection of new information.
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