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Special Issue "Degradation and Sustainable Management of Land"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Use of the Environment and Resources".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 January 2018

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Hans Hurni (Prof. em.)

Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), University of Bern, Hallerstrasse 10, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
Website | E-Mail
Interests: soil erosion; land degradation; sustainable development; mountains; agriculture; climate change

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Sustainable land management (SLM) became a standard term shortly after the first UN Conference on Environment and Development, UNCED, held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Since then, SLM has enhanced its importance and is a topic also in the current Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were adopted by the United Nations summit for the post-2015 development agenda held from 25 to 27 September 2015 in New York. Although a great deal has been achieved in SLM globally, much more will have to be done at the technical, social, institutional, political and economic levels to ensure SLM for all renewable natural resources on all land use types around the world.

From a scientific perspective, it is necessary and timely to ask ourselves four key questions:

1. What have we achieved in SLM compared to the ever-growing challenges of soil, water and biological degradation of land systems?
2. Do we sufficiently understand the socio-economics of land degradation to convince governments so that they provide the necessary schemes and incentives for land users to manage their land wisely?
3. Have institutional settings been adequately accustomed to invite land users to recognize and maintain essential ecosystem functions on their land?
4. Are political systems in the different development contexts conducive to sustainable land management and tuned to put an end to land degradation?

In the scientific community, many journals have addressed some of the questions above by publishing numerous papers from a wide array of scientific disciplines. What we need here is a Special Issue of Sustainability providing a synoptic overview of current research in degradation and sustainable land management, including an analysis of major research gaps which remain as open fields for future research. Each contribution will focus on an analysis of peer-reviewed papers of the last 5–20 years with an emphasis on the recent past.

The above-listed four key questions can be used by authors as a guideline for their papers to be submitted latest by 31 January, 2018. This will give the journal sufficient time to peer-review and revise these papers and publish those accepted in 2018, in time for the Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR) to take note by mid-2019. A notice of interest (tentative title, author(s), abstract of about 100 words), which briefly describes the main topics of the intended contribution, is most welcome. Please send it until 31 August 2017 to the Editorial Office (sustainability@mdpi.com).

Prof. Dr. Hans Hurni
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • land degradation
  • sustainable land management
  • global sustainable development report

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission, see below for planned papers.

Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Title: The dilemma of China’s land and environmental resources management: problems, causes and options
Author: Lulu Zhang
Abstract: Pressing issues such as food security, health, peace and poverty are deeply linked to the land use and management of associated natural resources. Due to the dynamics and diversity in drivers and pressures, as well as increasing awareness and demands on ecosystem services, past measures mainly for single purpose are no longer sufficient to cope with the coupled socio-ecological system. This calls for the advancement of approaches in decision making based on advanced academic research. This paper uses China as a case offering perspective on how these challenges may be dealt with by examining the problems in China’s major policies for land and resources and identifying their root causes. Isolated sectoral management and non-participatory processes characterised by negligence of the nexus of resources and the interests of participants led to undesirable policy results. It is suggested that China needs to establish a new mode of ‘economy and environment’ – formulating and balancing multiple benefits across socio-ecological system. Establishing multifunctional land use and adopting the soil-water-food nexus approach can pave a way forward. At the end, recommendations are given for research and implementation that are relevant for other regions since the challenges faced in China are not unique.

Title: Can Strategic Spatial Planning Reduce Land Degradation? A Critical Review
Author: Eduardo Oliveira, Silvia Tobias, Anna M. Hersperger
Abstract: Land degradation (LD) is a global problem in low income and highly industrialized countries. It is especially omnipresent in the ever growing urban regions that experience a loss of forest, agricultural and natural lands, in quantity and quality, due to an ongoing growth of built areas, expansion of transportation infrastructures and a loss of land functions due to associated processes such as land fragmentation and pollution. Strategic spatial planning (SSP) is an approach practiced in many urban regions worldwide to guide multi-actor spatial development processes, to achieve sustainable land use patterns and to secure multifunctionality. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that SPP can counteract the outlined undesired LD processes. In this review of scientific literature published between 1992 and 2017, we focus on both theoretical contributions and empirical evidence regarding: (i) mechanisms and instruments describing how SSP can contribute to reduce LD, for instance through governance arrangements (e.g. public-private partnerships), institutional configurations (e.g. empowerment of local levels of government) and spatial policies; and (ii) the targeted and achieved degree and type of reduction. Furthermore, we will prominently address critical contributions that report failures of SSP in regard of LD reduction. The findings will be summarized to draw conclusions for devising spatial and land use policies coping with the phenomenon of LD (e.g. regarding realistic expectations and contributing factors of LD reduction) and to pave a way for further scientific enquiry.

Title: The need for a safe outlet for drainage in irrigated agriculture: comparison of the Nile and Indus Basins
Author: Henk Ritzema, Wouter Wolters, Pieter van Oel, Simon van Meijeren, Koen Roest
Abstract: The climate is changing, cropping patterns are diversifying and field irrigation methods are changing. As a result river basins are closing, water sources become increasingly contested, and stakeholders engage in different ways to influence water policies and intervention programs. One way to alleviate water scarcity is to increase water use efficiency, but although the potential for saving water through increased efficiency is substantial, it is not as large as might be thought. In closing basins, i.e. basins that have no discharges of usable water in the dry season, increased salt concentrations and river depletion have become two inevitable collaterals of irrigated crop production. The location of the irrigated agricultural areas in a river basin has a distinctive influence of the possibilities to re-use the drainage effluent and the overall water productivity in a basin. In this paper we compare Egypt and Pakistan, both depending for their irrigation water on rivers in closing basins, to assess how the location of the (irrigated) agricultural lands in the basin effects the potential effective use and reuse of water for irrigated agriculture and thus the overall water efficiency. We conclude that in Egypt, where the majority of the irrigated agricultural lands (in the Nile Delta) are close to the Mediterranean Sea the options to re-use drainage water are much better compare to Pakistan where the major agricultural lands (in the Punjab) are located further upstream. Subsequently, the water productivity and salt balance are more favourable in Egypt than in Pakistan.

Journal Contact

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