Sustainable land management

Sustainable land management (SLM[1]) refers to practices and technologies that aim to integrate the management of land, water, biodiversity, and other environmental resources to meet human needs while ensuring the long-term sustainability of ecosystem services and livelihoods. The term sustainable land management is used, for example, in regional planning and soil or environmental protection, as well as in property and estate management.


The World Bank defines sustainable land management as a process in a charged environment between environmental protection and the guarantee claim of ecosystem services on the one hand. On the other hand, it is about productivity of agriculture and forestry with respect to demographic growth and increasing pressure in land use.

SLM is defined as a knowledge-based procedure that helps integrate land, water, biodiversity, and environmental management (including input and output externalities) to meet rising food and fiber demands while sustaining ecosystem services and livelihoods. SLM is necessary to meet the requirements of a growing population. Improper land management can lead to land degradation and a significant reduction in the productive and service (biodiversity niches, hydrology, carbon sequestration) functions of watersheds and landscapes."[1]

The World Bank

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) applies the term in a much wider context. Besides agriculture and forestry they include the mineral extraction sector, property and estate management.

Land management is the process by which the resources of land are put to good effect. It covers all activities concerned with the management of land as a resource both from an environmental and from an economic perspective. It can include farming, mineral extraction, property and estate management, and the physical planning of towns and the countryside.[2]

In the course of national politics and programmes, few European states use the terminology "sustainable land management". Here Australia and New Zealand are to be mentioned, as both countries have agreed on sustainable land management with respect to climate change as part of their government programmes.[3]

In the European context, the definition of the European Network for Land Use Management for Sustainable European Cities (LUMASEC)[4] may be used as a reference. It emphasizes the inter- and transdisciplinary cooperation on sustainable land management:

As management is the human activity meaning the action of people working together in the aim to accomplish desired goals, land use management is a process of managing use and development of land, in which spatial, sector-oriented and temporary aspects of urban policy are coordinated. Resources of land are used for different purposes, which may produce conflicts and competitions, and land use management has to see those purposes in an integrated way. Therefore, land management covers the debate about norms and visions driving the policy-making, sector-based planning both in the strategic and more operative time spans, spatial integration of sectoral issues, decision-making, budgeting, implementation of plans and decisions and the monitoring of results and evaluation of impacts.[5]

Research examples

Since 2010, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) funds an international research program on "sustainable land management".[6] Module A of the program investigates interactions between land management, climate change, and ecosystem services.[7] It includes projects operating in South America, Africa, Europe, Central Asia, and South Asia. Module B seeks "innovative system solutions" in 13 projects with a Central European focus.

Furthermore, the Economics of Land Degradation (ELD) Initiative seeks to establish a cost benefit analysis on the practice of sustainable land management highlighting its economic benefits. This economic analysis will enable decision makers to take appropriate measures combat land degradation globally. Additionally, the Initiative supports regional case studies focusing on Africa and Central Asia.

See also


  1. The World Bank (2006): Sustainable Land Management. Challenges, Opportunities, and Trade-offs. Washington, DC
  2. "Land Administration Guideline. With Special Reference to Countries in Transition" (PDF). UN Economic Commission for Europe, Geneva, ECE/HBP/96. 1996.
  3. vgl. Australian Government – Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
  5. Didier Vancutsem (LEAD Expert): 2008 Land Use Management for Sustainable European Cities
  6. Weith, T., Schulz, K., Gaasch, N., Seppelt, R., Werntze, A., Eppink, F. (2010): Towards Integration: Sustainable Land Management. A new German Research Funding Measure
  7. Seppelt, R., Dormann, C., Eppink, F. V., Lautenbach, S., Schmidt, S. (2011): A quantitative review of ecosystem studies: Approaches, shortcomings and the road ahead, Journal of Applied Ecology
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