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Prince, SD, Becker-Reshef, I, Rishmawi, K (2009). Detection and mapping of long-term land degradation using local net production scaling: Application to Zimbabwe. REMOTE SENSING OF ENVIRONMENT, 113(5), 1046-1057.

Degradation of vegetation and soils in drylands, sometimes called desertification, is thought to be a serious threat to the sustainability of human habitation, but maps of the extent and severity of degradation at Country and global scales do not exist. Degraded land, by definition, has suffered a change relative to its previous condition set by its climate, soil properties, topography and expectations of land managers. The local net production scaling (LNS) method, tested here in Zimbabwe, estimates potential production in homogeneous land capability classes and models the actual productivity using remotely-sensed observations. The difference between the potential and actual productivities provides a map of the location and severity of degradation. Six years of 250 m resolution MODIS data were used to estimate actual net production in Zimbabwe and calculate the LNS using three land capability classifications. The LNS maps agreed with known areas of degradation and with an independent degradation map. The principal source of error arose because of inhomogeneity of some land capability classes caused by, for example, the inclusion of local hot-spots of high production and differences in precipitation caused by local topography. Agriculture and other management can affect the degradation estimates and careful inspection of the LNS maps is essential to verify and identify the local causes of degradation. The Zimbabwe study found that approximately 16% of the country was at its potential production and the total loss in productivity due to degradation was estimated to be 17.6 Tg Cyr(-1), that is 13% of the entire national potential. Since the locations of degraded land were unrelated to natural environmental factors such as rainfall and soils, it is clear that the degradation has been caused by human land use, concentrated in the heavily-utilized, communal areas. (C) 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.



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