Land Use and Ecological Change (LUEC) refers to the changes in land cover caused by human activity. These changes are the result of a wide variety of factors. They range from individual and group values to the economic and technological developments of a society. Understanding LUEC is important in order to maintain terrestrial nature and people in the face of climate change.
For millennia, humans have used land to transform the earth’s ecology. This reshaping of the landscape has been accompanied by changes in biodiversity and climate. In recent years, global land transformation has been accelerated. However, the magnitude of this change is not uniform. Some regions have experienced the largest decline in forest land cover, while others have enjoyed the largest increase.
Understanding LUEC requires a basic knowledge of the physical and social systems that govern it. The driving forces that determine these systems can provide clues about how land use and ecological change will affect the future. It is essential to understand the driving forces before making policy decisions.
The largest environmental change drivers are population, technology, and affluence. Each has a direct impact on the magnitude of land use and ecological change. Affluence is especially significant in determining how and where land is used, and the extent of land degradation in an area.
Population growth is correlated with the expansion of agricultural lands. However, population growth is not a universal factor. Research on how population growth and land use relate to each other is limited. Many empirical studies have examined the relationship between the two, but their results are not comparable across all regions. Other research has focused on the relationships between population density and other environmental factors, such as deforestation.
Agricultural pricing policies are a major force in land use. The incentives created by these policies are strong and may drive individual decision makers to take certain actions, such as deforestation. Likewise, land tenure and property rights also influence access to land resources. Both of these are subject to legal and economic constraints. An overreliance on one or both of these factors can lead to a misuse of the resources available to a local population.
Land transformation and LUEC have been a significant driver of EIDs in many places. One example is Australia. Since 1973, humans have transformed much of the continent. Moreover, Australia’s unique example provides insight into regions that are less easily studied. As a result, concerns are growing that land use and EID are key drivers of global change.
Fortunately, there is an increasing amount of research on how and why LUCC and EID affect the environment. These studies can provide useful information to improve assessments of climatic change. They can help quantify the reliability of the results and give confidence to policy makers.
A study by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reports that global land degradation is a significant problem. Land degradation is the destruction of valuable habitats and ecosystems. It can also be a symptom of unintended consequences of development. There are a variety of factors that can contribute to land degradation, such as local deforestation and overgrazing by cattle herders.