Degraded land or degraded soil or degraded forest?

What is Degraded Land?

Degraded land:

  • Abandoned agriculture land
  • Grasslands
  • Severely degraded forest

Degraded soil is generally considered to be eroded or leached of nutrients. Some tropical soils are prone to the loss of nutrients and salinization, which results in very low productivity if they can be farm at all (Cheng Hai Teoh, 2011).

Degraded forests are those in which the structure, species composition, biomass and/or canopy cover are reduced from what is considered to be the original pristine forest cover of the area. (Forest harvesting generally results in forest degradation, rather than deforestation), (Cheng Hai Teoh, 2011).

Degraded land is a ‘long-term loss of ecosystem function and services, caused by disturbances from which the system cannot recover unaided’ (UNEP, 2007 in T. Fairhurst & D. McLaughin, 2009).

Degraded land is land where the native vegetation has been altered by anthropogenic activity resulting in a reduction in tree canopy cover, standing biomass or species diversity from which the system cannot recover unaided within a defined time period (Fairhurst, T & D. McLaughin, 2009).


Establishing oil palm plantation on degraded lands (Thomas Fairhurst & McLaughlin, 2009, p. 3):

  • The incremental agricultural practices that were required to rehabilitate these lands;
  • The cost associated with the rehabilitation;
  • The yields of palm oil obtain from these rehabilitated areas; and
  • The financial results of these different plantations (measured by NPV and IRR)


Degraded land in Indonesia:

  •  20 million ha degraded land (Clay, 2004)
  • 15-20 million ha degraded land (World Resource Institute in
  • 16.6 million ha degraded forest (Kartodiharjo & Supriono, 2000)
  • 21 million ha degraded forest (Kartawinata, et al., 2001)
  • 96.3 million ha degraded forestland + 41.7 million ha degraded land outside forest area (Nawir, et al., 2007)


Anthropogenic savannah in Indonesia

(Alang-alan grassland/imperata cylindrical)

  •  10 million ha (Tjitrosoedirdjo, 1993)
  • 20 million ha (Von Uexkull and Mutert, 1994)
  • 8.5 million ha (Garrity, 1997)


Ripple effect of crop expansion (The impact of oil palm expansion on degraded land)

Yields from oil palm planted on deep peat are generally very poor and management is difficult due to the requirements for water management and plant nutrition (zinc and copper deficiencies) (Thomas Fairhurst & McLaughlin, 2009, p. 3)

Potential yield of oil palm is not greatly reduced on degraded land provided proper management practices are used for plantation development (Fairhurst, T & D. McLaughin, 2009).