Land Resources

The small size of most small island developing States, coupled with land tenure systems, soil types, relief and climatic variation, limit the area available for urban settlement, agriculture, mining, commercial forestry, tourism and other infrastructure, and create intense competition between land use options. Most aspects of environmental management in small island developing States are directly dependent on, or influenced by, the planning and utilisation of land resources, which in turn are intimately linked to coastal zone management and protection in those States. The major long-term land management issue in small island developing States is the degradation of the limited land area due to a variety of factors, including overuse because of high population pressure on a limited resource base; deforestation due to unsustainable commercial logging or permanent conversion to agricultural or grazing pursuits; and other episodic events, such as fire. Natural events, such as catastrophic cyclones, are also major contributors.

Land degradation can result in accelerated erosion and a resultant decline in fertility and productivity, as well as a deterioration in water quality and the siltation of rivers, lagoons and reefs. Deforestation is also linked to a decline in the continuity and quality of village water supply, the depletion of genetic, wood and non-wood plant resources, and the fading away of traditional forest, lagoon and reef-based subsistence life systems. The basic principles and specific actions that are required at the national, regional and international levels to support sustainable development in small island developing states in the area of land resources are outlined in Chapters 6 of the BPoA and MSI.