6.1 Change of land use
We depend on land to provide many essential life-supporting systems.
Think back through the previous study sessions and consider the different ways that we all use land. What different types of land use can you think of?
We use the land to provide food from agricultural activities; to supply wood from trees for construction and fuel; for water which is extracted from rivers and lakes on the land’s surface or from underground, and to provide rocks and building materials.
You may also have thought of the land that is used when we build houses, shops, factories, roads and other components that make up the urban environment. This is the aspect of land use that we will be focusing on in this study session.
Land use can be defined as arrangements, activities and inputs by people to produce, change or maintain a certain land cover type (FAO/UNEP, 1999). This definition makes it clear that there is a link between land use and land cover. Land cover is the observed biophysical cover on the Earth's surface. In non-urban areas land cover is usually described by the dominant vegetation type, such as forest, grassland or cropland. Changing the way the land is used (for example by building towns and cities on it) changes the land cover and has many direct and indirect effects.
Most consequences of changing land use through urbanisation can be grouped into two main categories: the decrease in natural and agricultural land, and the increase in hard surfaces of built-up areas.