Agriculture is the backbone of Central Asia’s (CA) economy providing economic and social stability in the region. Sustainable use of agricultural land is therefore of critical importance to economic growth, human well-being and social equity, and ecosystem services. However, severe land degradation through salinization, erosion and desertification is evident and respective impacts on human health and ecosystem services are suspected. This paper aims to analyze current research on agricultural land use in CA through applying the Land Use Functions framework. In particular, it examines the type and relative shares of environmental, economic and social aspects of agricultural land use addressed in existing scientific literature. This study analyzed scientific publications dealing with agricultural land use in five CA countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. A systematic database search of international peer-reviewed articles was conducted using the ISI Web of Science. We selected the English-language articles that were published between 2008 and 2013. After the analysis of paper titles, abstracts and keywords, we found 362 articles relevant to agricultural land use in CA. The analysis indicated that publications concentrating on environmental and economic dimensions of land use functions were primary focus of land use scientists. By contrast, social aspects of land use functions, such as employment, human health and recreational services, and landscape aesthetics received far less importance by international scholars. Interestingly, large portion of articles focused on issues of agricultural land use in Uzbekistan. This is due to the fact that the country extensively benefited from large international research projects in the last decade. By applying the Land Use Functions framework, we identified international research focus and knowledge gaps that future scientists can contribute to the sustainability of agricultural land use in CA.


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