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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: closed (28 February 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.

Keywords

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

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle Conservation Payments, Off-Farm Labor, and Ethnic Minorities: Participation and Impact of the Grain for Green Program in China
Sustainability 2018, 10(4), 1183; doi:10.3390/su10041183
Received: 25 January 2018 / Revised: 19 March 2018 / Accepted: 3 April 2018 / Published: 14 April 2018
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Abstract
The Grain for Green program in China, a nationwide cropland set-aside program aimed at soil erosion prevention and poverty alleviation, was begun in 1999 and quickly expanded to 25 provinces, covering 32 million households. Its effects on participating households are well studied, but
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The Grain for Green program in China, a nationwide cropland set-aside program aimed at soil erosion prevention and poverty alleviation, was begun in 1999 and quickly expanded to 25 provinces, covering 32 million households. Its effects on participating households are well studied, but the role of ethnic characteristics is less well investigated. Given the overlap of areas covered by Grain for Green and areas inhabited by ethnic minorities, where development is a long-unresolved problem, it is important to determine how ethnic minorities react to, and benefit from, the Grain for Green program. This study investigates participation in the program by ethnic minorities and estimates its impact on their off-farm labor supply, compared with that of the ethnic majority, Han. We find that ethnic minorities were more likely to participate in the program, but enrolled similar area of land per household. However, ethnic minorities did not increase off-farm labor supply after participation in Grain for Green, while Han participants increased their off-farm labor supply significantly. These findings raise concerns that Grain for Green may have widened the income gap between Han and ethnic minorities. This study also provides important policy implications on sustainable land management for less-developed regions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Degradation and Sustainable Management of Land)
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Open AccessArticle Developing an Accessible Landslide Susceptibility Model Using Open-Source Resources
Sustainability 2018, 10(2), 293; doi:10.3390/su10020293
Received: 14 December 2017 / Revised: 12 January 2018 / Accepted: 22 January 2018 / Published: 23 January 2018
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Abstract
Landslide susceptibility models are important for public safety, but often rely on inaccessible or unaffordable software and geospatial data. Thus, affordable and accessible landslide prediction systems would be especially useful in places that lack the infrastructure for acquiring and analyzing geospatial data. Current
[...] Read more.
Landslide susceptibility models are important for public safety, but often rely on inaccessible or unaffordable software and geospatial data. Thus, affordable and accessible landslide prediction systems would be especially useful in places that lack the infrastructure for acquiring and analyzing geospatial data. Current landslide susceptibility models and existing methodologies do not consider such issues; therefore, this study aimed to develop an accessible and affordable landslide susceptibility modeling application and methodology based on open-source software and geospatial data. This model used TRIGRS (asc format) and QGIS (Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) extracted from GeoTIFF format) with widely accessible environmental parameters to identify potential landslide risks. In order to verify the suitability of the proposed application and methodology, a case study was conducted on Lantau Island, Hong Kong to assess the validity of the results, a comparison with 1999 landslide locations. The application developed in this study showed a good agreement with the four previous landslide locations marked as highly susceptible, which proves the validity of the study. Therefore, the developing model and the cost-effective approach, in this study simulated the landslide performance well and suggested the new approach of the landslide prediction system. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Degradation and Sustainable Management of Land)
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Open AccessArticle A System Analysis on Steppe Sustainability and Its Driving Forces—A Case Study in China
Sustainability 2018, 10(1), 233; doi:10.3390/su10010233
Received: 29 November 2017 / Revised: 2 January 2018 / Accepted: 15 January 2018 / Published: 18 January 2018
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (4234 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Steppe is an indispensable component for terrestrial ecosystems and it is of great significance to systematically analyze steppe sustainability and its driving forces. In this study, we propose a steppe dynamics ranking method based on Pauta criterion and a steppe sustainability assessment method
[...] Read more.
Steppe is an indispensable component for terrestrial ecosystems and it is of great significance to systematically analyze steppe sustainability and its driving forces. In this study, we propose a steppe dynamics ranking method based on Pauta criterion and a steppe sustainability assessment method with an effect matrix. The natural driving forces on steppe sustainability were systematically analyzed using the copula model, and the anthropogenic driving factors, including land use, were analyzed by using spatial overlay and statistical analysis methods. The results showed the following: (1) in general, steppe sustainability showed a trend of improvement from 2001 to 2010 in China. However, there were still some degraded areas scattered within the study area; (2) the consistent effect of steppe dynamics on steppe sustainability was significant on the whole, although there was a diverse effect on it; (3) among the natural factors, precipitation was the strongest positive driving force, followed by temperature average, while sunshine duration had strong negative driving force. The impact caused by land use factors was controlled during that decade, and the steppe land that evolved from urban and built-up land, cropland, and forest was vulnerable and resulted in steppe sustainability degradation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Degradation and Sustainable Management of Land)
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Open AccessArticle China’s Land Resources Dilemma: Problems, Outcomes, and Options for Sustainable Land Restoration
Sustainability 2017, 9(12), 2362; doi:10.3390/su9122362
Received: 27 October 2017 / Revised: 5 December 2017 / Accepted: 16 December 2017 / Published: 18 December 2017
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (1350 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Pressing issues such as water and food security, health, peace, and poverty are deeply linked to land degradation. We use China’s major land restoration programs as a case offering perspective on the existing problems in China’s major policies for improving degraded land and
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Pressing issues such as water and food security, health, peace, and poverty are deeply linked to land degradation. We use China’s major land restoration programs as a case offering perspective on the existing problems in China’s major policies for improving degraded land and maintaining land resources in three dimensions. The shortcomings and outcomes in terms of biophysical consequences, socioeconomic benefits, and political goals are addressed, namely (i) non-integrated land resources management creates new problems while solving existing problems, (ii) non-participatory processes and “one-size-fits-all” measures compromise socioeconomic benefits, and (iii) implementation outcomes conflict with policy targets for sustainable land management and development. Based on discussions for more sustainable land management, we conclude that China needs to create a new mode of ‘economy and environment’ in plans and actions of restoring degraded land resources. Establishing multifunctional land-use systems based on formulating and balancing multiple benefits/services across socio-ecological sectors can be an option to achieve such a mode. At the end, recommendations are given for research and implementation that are not only vital for China but also relevant for other regions since the challenges of afforestation and sustainable land development faced in China are not unique. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Degradation and Sustainable Management of Land)
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Open AccessArticle Characterization and Potential Use of Biochar for the Remediation of Coal Mine Waste Containing Efflorescent Salts
Sustainability 2017, 9(11), 2100; doi:10.3390/su9112100
Received: 18 August 2017 / Revised: 1 November 2017 / Accepted: 3 November 2017 / Published: 15 November 2017
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Abstract
In open pit coal mining, soil and vegetation are removed prior to the start of mining activities, causing physical, chemical, and microbiological changes to the soil and landscape. The present work shows the results of an integrated study of the remediation of mine
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In open pit coal mining, soil and vegetation are removed prior to the start of mining activities, causing physical, chemical, and microbiological changes to the soil and landscape. The present work shows the results of an integrated study of the remediation of mine waste with a high level of salt contamination in areas of the Cesar Department (Colombia), employing biochar as an amendment. Physical-chemical properties including Munsell color, texture, pH, electrical conductivity, water-holding capacity, cation exchange capacity, metal content, organic carbon, sulfates, extractable P, and total nitrogen were characterized both in the soils contaminated with mine residues and the biochar sample. A high concentration of sulfates, calcium, iron, and aluminum and a significant presence of Na, followed by minor amounts of Mg, K, Cu, and Mn, were observed in efflorescent salts. X-ray diffraction indicated a high presence of quartz and gypsum and the absence of pyrite and Schwertmannite in the efflorescent salt, while showing broad peaks belonging to graphene sheets in the biochar sample. Soil remediation was evaluated in Petri dish seed germination bioassays using Brachiaria decumbens. Biochar was shown to be effective in the improvement of pH, and positively influenced the germination percentage and root length of Brachiaria grass seeds. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Degradation and Sustainable Management of Land)
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Review

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Open AccessReview Can Strategic Spatial Planning Contribute to Land Degradation Reduction in Urban Regions? State of the Art and Future Research
Sustainability 2018, 10(4), 949; doi:10.3390/su10040949
Received: 31 January 2018 / Revised: 12 March 2018 / Accepted: 21 March 2018 / Published: 24 March 2018
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Abstract
Land degradation is becoming a serious environmental issue threatening fertile agricultural soils and other natural resources. There are many driving forces behind land degradation. The expansion of artificial surfaces due to various economic activities, such as housing, industry, and transport infrastructure, known as
[...] Read more.
Land degradation is becoming a serious environmental issue threatening fertile agricultural soils and other natural resources. There are many driving forces behind land degradation. The expansion of artificial surfaces due to various economic activities, such as housing, industry, and transport infrastructure, known as soil sealing, constitutes one of the most intensive forms of land degradation in urban regions. Measures to halt and reverse land degradation require both strong land-use management policies, as well as effective spatial planning mechanisms. In this regard, strategic spatial planning has been increasingly practised in many urban regions worldwide, as a means to achieve sustainable land-use patterns and to guide the location of development and physical infrastructures. It is reasonable, therefore, to expect that strategic spatial planning can counteract the outlined undesired land degradation effects, specifically those resulting from soil sealing. In this paper, we review strategic spatial planning literature published between 1992 and 2017. The focus is on the phenomena causing land degradation that are addressed by strategic spatial planning literature, as well as on the mechanisms describing the role of strategic spatial planning in land degradation reduction. Results show that sustainable development and environmental concerns have become core objectives of strategic planning in recent years, yet references to the drivers of land degradation are rare. The mechanisms that exist are mainly intended to address environmental issues in general, and are not aimed at reducing particular forms of land degradation. The paper concludes by sketching future research directions, intended to support strategic spatial planning and land-use policymaking related to coping with the global phenomenon of land degradation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Degradation and Sustainable Management of Land)
Open AccessReview Revisiting the Factors Shaping Outcomes for Forest and Landscape Restoration in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Way Forward for Policy, Practice and Research
Sustainability 2018, 10(4), 906; doi:10.3390/su10040906
Received: 2 February 2018 / Revised: 15 March 2018 / Accepted: 19 March 2018 / Published: 21 March 2018
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Abstract
A lack of systematic understanding of the elements that determine the success of forest and landscape restoration (FLR) investments leads to the inability to clearly articulate strategic and practical approaches to support natural resource restoration endeavors across Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). This review examines
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A lack of systematic understanding of the elements that determine the success of forest and landscape restoration (FLR) investments leads to the inability to clearly articulate strategic and practical approaches to support natural resource restoration endeavors across Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). This review examines the different challenges and opportunities for effective restoration interventions. Using a structured literature review, we draw evidence from a broad range of scholarly works on natural resource conservation and governance to investigate the early dynamics of FLR in SSA. We first engage in a contextual clarification of FLR concepts and then provide a synthesis of the factors that influence the results of FLR interventions at the social and institutional level to inform relevant restoration stakeholders—policy makers, investors, and practitioners. The review finds that several interacting factors shape the outcomes of FLR interventions. We classified them into three categories based on their features, intensity, and scale of occurrence: (1) micro-scale factors that enable or limit individual engagement in FLR and sustainable management practices; (2) project/program-level factors, including the design and implementation stages; and (3) institutional, policy, and governance factors, and issues of inequity that operate at the local or national government scale. The review goes beyond underscoring funding constraints as a major challenge to the up- and out-scaling of restoration interventions and FLR success. The findings also set out a premise for future research to guide the design and implementation of successful FLR models in SSA. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Degradation and Sustainable Management of Land)
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Open AccessReview Trade-Offs in Multi-Purpose Land Use under Land Degradation
Sustainability 2017, 9(12), 2196; doi:10.3390/su9122196
Received: 9 October 2017 / Revised: 20 November 2017 / Accepted: 25 November 2017 / Published: 28 November 2017
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (2386 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Land provides a host of ecosystem services, of which the provisioning services are often considered paramount. As the demand for agricultural products multiplies, other ecosystem services are being degraded or lost entirely. Finding a sustainable trade-off between food production and one or more
[...] Read more.
Land provides a host of ecosystem services, of which the provisioning services are often considered paramount. As the demand for agricultural products multiplies, other ecosystem services are being degraded or lost entirely. Finding a sustainable trade-off between food production and one or more of other ecosystem services, given the variety of stakeholders, is a matter of optimizing land use in a dynamic and complex socio-ecological system. Land degradation reduces our options to meet both food demands and environmental needs. In order to illustrate this trade-off dilemma, four representative services, carbon sinks, water storage, biodiversity, and space for urbanization, are discussed here based on a review of contemporary literature that cuts across the domain of ecosystem services that are provided by land. Agricultural research will have to expand its focus from the field to the landscape level and in the process examine the cost of production that internalizes environmental costs. In some situations, the public cost of agriculture in marginal environments outweighs the private gains, even with the best technologies in place. Land use and city planners will increasingly have to address the cost of occupying productive agricultural land or the conversion of natural habitats. Landscape designs and urban planning should aim for the preservation of agricultural land and the integrated management of land resources by closing water and nutrient cycles, and by restoring biodiversity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Degradation and Sustainable Management of Land)
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