The concept of land is fundamental and deeply held within every human culture. Land is our life-support system. It is not just real estate. It embraces the air above and its climate; the natural vegetation and wildlife; managed crops, forest, range, and livestock; surface- and groundwater; the foundation of rocks and soil; and the lasting effects of management like terraces, irrigation and drainage works, and flood defences.
Land is prized by everyone. Today and every day, people are fighting one another for land. Having taken possession, maybe at great cost, people often then destroy the very resource they depend upon. Where people are poor, pressure on the land coupled with low levels of technology, low inputs, and low outputs can create a vicious circle: land degradation, permanent loss of productive capacity, and a lack of margins in production systems that leaves both land and people poorer and increasingly vulnerable to natural disasters.
Even in rich countries there are insidious environmental problems including pollution of soil, water, and air, and a dramatic loss of biodiversity. One reason for this paradox is ignorance. Information counters ignorance. But information is not simply facts: primary data have to be interpreted to answer specific questions, but is not only that. The decision-makers need expertise just as much as they need data. In countries where capital and skilled manpower are scarce, most people depend directly on natural resources.
Obviously, decision-makers need baseline information about the land. Equally, they need information about the development opportunities open to them; about the impact of each option on social and economic goals like employment, food security, and export earnings; and they need information about the impact of land use on the land itself—whether the land use is sustainable or will progressively destroy the resource on which it depends.
Desertification and land degradation data are unique, both in the way it is collected and in the way the research community accesses it, and interprets it. Scientific data management is fundamental to combating desertification. The library ensures quality and consistency by taking a methodical, interdisciplinary, global, and team-based approach to data management. Although scientists have long recognized the significance of the impact of desertification, collecting data from the arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid regions of the globe has proven difficult, if not impossible in some cases.
Natural resources underpin the economies of all countries—the capacity of the land to provide food, water and recreation, to support the infrastructure of civilization, and to assimilate the wastes of industrial societies, is vital to OUR daily life. Stand for your LAND now!