Sustainable land management in a european context : a co-design approach
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Sustainable land management is a key issue among the various applications of sustainable development. Humans are mobile terrestrial beings who need land as terra firma to support their activities and obtain vital resources. And yet land makes up only a third of the earth’s surface and is finite, much of it already having been populated by humans. Other basic preconditions for ensuring the survival of humans were the availability of freshwater and a plant cover that provided food and shelter, which was used for gathering and hunting. This activity was steadily improved owing to skill and intellect, particularly after learning how to use fire as an effective energy source. The real importance of land, however, was discovered when humans started to practice agriculture, especially crop farming. This was the very origin of land use and the first decisive step in transforming nature into a typical human environment, called culture. Humans took ownership of land and selected certain plant and animal species for crop cultivation and livestock husbandry around their settlements. These were built as solid farmsteads, marking a second type of land use and a completely artificial land cover. During plant cultivation, farmers became aware of the uppermost layer of the land, called soil, the quality of which, above all fertility, was indicated by the plant cover. Humans soon learned to determine which sites were best suited for agriculture—deep sandy to loamy soils that were easy to till. Management began by replacing the natural plant cover with crop plants, usually in pure stands, which involved working the land using tools such as hoes and ploughs. Grain and root crops soon became the mainstay of human food supply, promoting population growth—which again required more farmland: a vicious circle evolved.
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