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Anthropology, Space, and Geographic Information Systems$
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Mark Aldenderfer and Herbert D. G. Maschner

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780195085754

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195085754.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 25 October 2021

Land Degradation in the Peruvian Amazon: Applying GIS in Human Ecology Research

Land Degradation in the Peruvian Amazon: Applying GIS in Human Ecology Research

(p.19) 2 Land Degradation in the Peruvian Amazon: Applying GIS in Human Ecology Research
Anthropology, Space, and Geographic Information Systems

William M. Loker

Oxford University Press

Land degradation, a reduction in the productive capacity of land, is a process of increasing concern in the challenge to maintain and enhance global food production. It is an especially critical problem in developing countries faced with the need to increase food availability for growing populations. Billions of dollars are invested in agricultural research and development aimed at increasing the food supply. At the same time, land degradation threatens to reduce production in large areas of agricultural land. While estimates of the magnitude of the problem vary widely (see WCED 1987; WRI/IIED 1988; and Lal and Stewart 1990 for recent reviews), there is a growing consensus that land degradation is a serious and complex problem that merits increased attention from both natural and social scientists. A recent review of this topic by Blaikie and Brookfield (1987) highlights the role of the social sciences in studying land degradation problems. According to these authors, the term “land degradation” refers to a reduction in the actual or potential uses of land due to human activities (1987: 1). The costs of land degradation (“the product of work on degraded lands is less than that on the same land without degradation”) make it a serious social problem for millions of farmers around the world and thus a priority for social science inquiry. A central actor for understanding the causes and consequences of land degradation is the land manager—most often the farmer—who makes the landuse decisions for particular plots of land. Social science has a key role in understanding this process of decision making, including the social and ecological contexts in which decisions are carried out. Anthropology’s emphasis on working with peasants, small farmers, and indigenous people holds out the promise for important empirical and theoretical contributions in understanding land degradation. A human ecology approach that focuses on the adaptive strategies of individuals and groups and the environmental consequences of these behaviors seems particularly well placed to contribute to this topic.

Keywords:   Crop distribution, Dot map, Geographic Information System (GIS) definition

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