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Land Capability

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1. Land capability is the ability of a piece of land to sustainably support a specific land use. If land is used beyond its capability, degradation is the consequence.

2. Land capability is based on the understanding that every component of land has its own particular capacity to provide ecosystem services. It also propounds that a significant proportion of this capacity is required to maintain soil and land health (primary services) and that the remaining capacity is then potentially available for a range of human enterprises (secondary services). Land capability assessment therefore enables the reconciliation of production and protection.

3. Ecologically sustainable uses must be those which do not compromise the primary ecosystem services. The corollary is that the soil and land can then be regarded as healthy. If, conversely, land is used such that the primary ecosystem services are compromised then, by definition, land degradation has occurred.

4. The level of ecosystem services available will depend on the land component features, and its topographic and climatic environment. It is not possible to provide levels as a simple representation, although they will closely relate to our integrated understanding of land and soil quality. Seasonal variation compounds the issue. Climatic variation adds a new dimension entirely.

5. The sustainable harvest of particular goods and services will thus be directly related to the availability of surplus ecosystem service capacity (i.e. that over and above that require for basic ecosystem activity). Health is lost if harvest (and its associated management) removes goods and services required for basic ecosystem activity

6. Land capability does not include social or economic components. It focuses entirely on requirements for sustainability of the ecosystem. After the assessment of land capability, there is the requirement to overlay this then with the social and the economic constraints. Then, thus, we have land suitability assessment.

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