Deterioration of natural landscapes due to human activity is a widespread global change problem. A map provided by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations provides a global view of the causes of land deterioration.
Warren and Agnew (1988) in "An Assessment of Desertification and Land Degradation in Arid and Semi-arid Areas" emphasize the role of political, economic, and social institutions as factors in land degradation. They begin by challenging common definitions of desertification and assert that land degradation is a more accurate term for the global decline in productivity of lands. They also distinguish among aridity, drought and desertification. Finally they look at causes which they contend includes faults of technology, faults of society, population, land ownership, inequalities, and poverty. No one set of solutions applies to all dry lands. Their lower productivity and vulnerability to risk must be recognized in establishing management policies. Democratic institutions play a critical role in the recovery process.