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Geographers douglas johnson and Laurence Lewis define land degradation as a significant decrease in either the biological productivity or the usefulness of a region for humankind. This definition initially appears quite straightforward, but since land degradation has both biophysical and social components, characterizing land degradation soon becomes much more complicated. The biophysical components are wide-ranging, including: soil erosion, soil fertility, vegetation diversity and coverage, and hydrological functions. The social components draw attention to the notion that “usefulness” has multiple definitions. Land degradation is a perceptual term that has different meanings to different people at various times and places.

Conventional definitions of land degradation classify land as degraded only when the decreased productivity is the result of human activities rather than natural events. Natural catastrophes—such as earthquakes ...

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