Land Resources such as pastures or forests present the production base for most of the Central Asian inhabitants. Livestock farming, production of agricultural crops, fruits, nuts and forest products constitute the basis of the livelihood for the rural population.
The core functions and the productivity of these natural resources are jeopardized by increasing land degradation and desertification, due to several reasons. For example:
- growing number of livestock, followed by overgrazing of pastures, leading to soil erosion, loss of biodiversity and desertification and contributing to GHG emissions;
- deforestation and poor management of forest resources impacting water resources, releasing GHG to the atmosphere, affecting negatively local climate and contributing to loss of biodiversity;
- increasing extreme climate events, such as heavy rainfalls and droughts due to Climate Change and other negative impacts related to CC (e.g. melting of glaciers, water availability, increase of temperatures);
- increased use of water for irrigation systems with subsequent salinization of soils and competition for drinking water.
Thus, land use patterns also play a central role in climate change adaptation and mitigation. Land resources are both sinks and sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Additionally, to the widespread degradation of productive land resources, climate change will further increase the pressure on the Central Asian countries to sustain the production base of sectors that depend on land resources, such as the agricultural sector, the water sector (drinking and irrigation water, hydro-energy), the forestry sector and the rural development sector, for instance.
Forecasts of the effects of climate change predict multiple threats, including extreme temperatures, the retreat of glaciers and disruptions in precipitation and snow melt patterns that change the hydrology of mountain rivers and cause water shortages, droughts and floods. The mountainous regions of Central Asia are especially vulnerable to climate change, also because the inhabitants of mountainous regions in Central Asia have less resources to deal with these negative consequences. Nevertheless, also lowlanders that depend on the water from the mountains will be directly affected by the effects of climate change. This will lead to an increased competition for water and land resources. Consequently, current political tensions may further intensify.
Of the 399.4 million hectares of land in Central Asia, about two-thirds are dryland with extreme biophysical constraints common to arid and continental climate zones (Gupta et al., 2019; Quillérou et al., 2016). Extensive land degradation, loss of soil fertility, overgrazing, deforestation and loss of biodiversity are driven by anthropogenic pressure from unsustainable agricultural and grazing practices and overusing forest resources. It is estimated that land degradation affects 4-10 percent of crop land, 27-68 percent of pastures and 1-8 percent of the forests in Central Asia (Quillérou et al., 2016).
A significant part of the population of the five countries in Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) relies upon land resources to sustain their livelihoods. Pastures, cropland and forests are the basis for food security and provide income opportunities for many people in the region. About 60 percent of the region’s population lives in rural areas and depends upon land and its respective ecosystems. Development based upon these ecosystems therefore plays an important role in fostering national economic development.