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Environmental Science: A Global Concern, 7/e
William P. Cunningham, University of Minnesota
Mary Ann Cunningham, Vassar College
Barbara Woodworth Saigo, St. Cloud State University

Land Use: Forest and Rangelands

Chapter Overview

Half of the earth's land surface is either grassland (22 percent) or forest and woodland (28 percent). Both of these vegetation types have important commercial value. Wood and wood products are used by most industries. Fuel wood is crucial for cooking in much of the world. Rangelands, generally too dry for crops, sustain large numbers of livestock.

Humans have long depended on these lands for food and fiber, and there is no reason to expect future societies to be any different. Here's the problem. As the demand and intensity of exploitation for these resources rise, so too do questions of sustainability. As you learn in this chapter, intensive exploitation can cause environmental deterioration. Such deterioration not only jeopardizes the land's ability to continue to serve as a source of food and fiber, but disrupts the delivery of numerous other ecological services performed by healthy forest and range.

Among the needed changes called for in the chapter is land reform. Surprisingly, land ownership patterns and the fate of indigenous people are both intertwined with the prospects for resolving these threats to sustainability.