Restoring Value to the World's Degraded Lands

Science  21 Jul 1995:
Vol. 269, Issue 5222, pp. 350-354
DOI: 10.1126/science.269.5222.350


Roughly 43 percent of Earth's terrestrial vegetated surface has diminished capacity to supply benefits to humanity because of recent, direct impacts of land use. This represents an ∼10 percent reduction in potential direct instrumental value (PDIV), defined as the potential to yield direct benefits such as agricultural, forestry, industrial, and medicinal products. If present trends continue, the global loss of PDIV could reach ∼20 percent by 2020. From a biophysical perspective, recovery of ∼5 percent of PDIV is feasible over the next 25 years. Capitalizing on natural recovery mechanisms is urgently needed to prevent further irreversible degradation and to retain the multiple values of productive land.