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Land Cover Change

Geography (Year 12) - Geography Knowledge

Adrienne Reeder

Land Cover Change

Land cover change is the changes in specific continuous land characteristics, including vegetation type and soil properties. These processes are done through deforestation, the expansion and intensification of agriculture, urban settlement, and mining growth. At the same time, land use involves changing how a particular area of land is used or managed by humans.

Examples of Land Cover Change


This is the removal of forests or trees from land that will be converted for human or urban use. Deforestation can involve the conversion of forest land to farms, ranches, or, most of the time, urban use. The most concentrated area where deforestation occurs is the tropical rainforests worldwide.  Human activities have dramatically accelerated deforestation since 1960, negatively affecting natural ecosystems, biodiversity, and the climate.

The expansion of intensification of agriculture

This is the increasing of agricultural inputs to improve the area rather than expanding the land under cultivation; it technically can increase agricultural production per unit of farmland, including labour, land, time, fertiliser, etc. Examples of agricultural intensification are using new pesticides or even intensifying the use of indigenous and context-specific knowledge in local farming areas.

Urban settlement

Urban settlement is where populations settle within a metropolitan area with a high population and infrastructure. Major urban settlements include towns and cities; urban populations interact more with their settings than people living in a rural environment. The major environmental issues incorporated are air pollution, water pollution, and the destruction of natural habitats.


The environmental effect that mining can cause can occur at local, regional and global scales through direct and indirect mining practices. Mining can result in erosion, sinkholes, loss of biodiversity or the contamination of soil, groundwater and surface water by the chemicals emitted from mining processes. Surface and groundwater are essential resources for human life and health within the land cover. However, land use changes through mining activities can compromise these resources.

The Effects of Land Cover Change

Trees absorb and store carbon dioxide. If forests are cleared or disturbed, they release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Forest loss and damage causes around 10% of global warming. We can only fight the climate crisis if we stop deforestation.

Land cover change affects the earth's surface, holds substantial implications for sustainable development and livelihood systems, and contributes to changes in the planet's biogeochemical cycles while also affecting the atmospheric greenhouse gas. Terrestrial biodiversity loss is the most significant effect of land cover change, the changes that occur are slow, and they often start will a decline in species diversity and population, resulting in a significant impact on ecosystems.

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