Abandoned Agricultural Lands

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Contrary to a general increase in the world area of agricultural lands (Figure 1), more than 80 countries demonstrate a continuous reduction of agricultural lands. From 1961 to 2002, about 2.3 million km2 of agricultural lands was abandoned, foremost in Russia, Australia, the USA, and West Europe (Table 11).

Six types of abandoning of agricultural lands can be distinguished. The first four types are typical of the countries, where the decrease in the area of agricultural lands is a result of agricultural intensification.

1. US type. The decrease in agricultural area as a result of agricultural intensification is accompanied by a growing agricultural output (Figures 6 and 7). There are 21 countries (the USA, the UK, countries of West Europe, Australia, India, Thailand, etc.) with this type of the dynamics of agricultural lands; about 1.0 million km2 of agricultural lands has been abandoned in the recent decades (43.5% of the world value).

2. Japan-type dynamics. The decrease in agricultural area as a result of agricultural intensification is accompanied by the decreasing agricultural output, which signifies the orientation toward food import. Two countries - Japan and South Korea - abandoned 0.02 million km2 of agricultural areas (<1% of the world value).

3. France-type dynamics. The decrease in agricultural area as a result of agricultural intensification is followed

Table 11 Countries with maximum abandoned agricultural areas in 1961-2002

No.

Country

Abandoned agricultural area (1000 km2)

1

Russia

617.4

2

Australia

407.7

3

United States

356.4

West Europe

251.2

Total

4

Kazakhstan

60

5

Algeria

54

6

Italy

52.4

7

France

49.8

8

Spain

30.3

9

Canada

29.5

10

United Kingdom

28.5

11

Germany

25.6

12

South Africa

23.8

13

Poland

19.7

14

Chile

19.5

15

Japan

19.3

Other countries

553.4

Total in the world

2297.7

by its increase during the recent years with a general rise in the agricultural output, which signifies the orientation toward food export. There are no countries with 'clear' France-type dynamics of agricultural lands: only a 'mix' with the US type, that is, arable land with the France type and pasture land with the US type (France, Switzerland,

United Kingdom Population Dynamics
Figure 6 The decrease in agricultural area as a result of agricultural intensification with an increase in agricultural production (the USA, 1961-2003).

Agricultural lands are increasing or constant | | US type

Japan type Hungary type Russian type Miscellaneous type

Figure 7 Countries with decreasing agricultural area (1961-2003).

the Netherlands, Uruguay), or arable land with the US type and pasture land with the France type (Spain, New Zealand). Overall, 0.1 million km2 of agricultural lands have been abandoned in these six countries (4% of the world value).

4. Hungary-type (transitional) dynamics. The decrease in agricultural area as a result of agricultural intensification is followed by the decrease caused by the deep economic crisis; the agricultural output increases at the first stage and decreases during the second stage. Within this type, 0.07 million km2 of agricultural lands (3%) has been abandoned in nine countries (Poland, Hungary, and other countries of East Europe).

Two other types of the recent dynamics of agricultural lands are typical of the countries, in which the decrease in agricultural lands is, first of all, a result of

Austria France

Year Year

Figure 8 The dynamics of agricultural (1) and forest (2) lands in some countries of the forest zone.

crises, wars, revolutions, and others nonagricultural processes.

5. Russian-type dynamics. The increase in agricultural area is followed by a sharp decrease as a result of the deep economic crisis; this is accompanied by the growth and, then, reduction of the agricultural output. In 17 countries (Russia, other countries of the former USSR, Bulgaria, Romania), 0.85 million km2 of agricultural lands (37.0% of the world value) has been abandoned.

6. Miscellaneous-type dynamics. The decrease in agricultural area has no relation to agricultural productivity and total agricultural output. In 21 countries with the miscellaneous-type dynamics (Bangladesh, Cameroon, Lesotho, Nigeria, Swaziland, etc.), 0.25 million km2 of agricultural lands (10.9%) has been abandoned.

Abandoned agricultural area is replaced by two kinds of land: first - by settlements, infrastructure, industry, etc.; second - by fallows. In the latter case, the former agroe-cosystems are being substituted by natural ecosystems. In the forest zone, the natural succession develops toward restoration of forest ecosystems (Figure 8); in the steppe zone, toward restoration of grassland ecosystems.

However, the natural succession processes can be blocked. This may happen if:

• the soil or the relief of the abandoned land is destroyed by erosion or other dangerous processes;

• the abandoned agricultural land is occupied by introduced plant species, which can stop the natural succession processes;

• there are no plant species, which are necessary for succession processes, around the abandoned agricultural land or in the soil seed bank.

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