Land resources may be defined as certain areas of the earth's surface with various landscapes, soils, climatic conditions and other different characteristics.
The land fund of the Russian Federation has nearly 1710 million hectares. The average density of population - 8,6 person per square km. According to Food and Agricultural Organization reclamated lands occupy less than 20 % of the territories.
The territory of the Russian Federation is characterized by specific features. In the first instance by heterogeneity of climatic and lithologic-and-geomorphological conditions, geological history. All that determines a wide variety of soils. More than one third of the territory of Russia - mountain regions with well-defined vertical zoning. General features of mountain lands are stoniness and constant erosive processes.
On the whole the soils of Russia differ greatly. Alongside with high-fertile soils there are poor, low-yield ones, as well as the soils requiring melioration.
Wide land zoning is well observed in the western part of Russia. Zoning of Eastern Siberia and the Far East is rather broken by a mountain relief. Bioclimatic conditions of land zones noticeably change from north to south. This fact determines subdivision of zones into sub-zones.
Polar and boreal soil formation is most typical of the territory of the Russian Federation (the arctic, subarctic and taiga zones). Forming tundra, frozen taiga, podsolic and peatbog soils of these regions cover almost 40 % of flat Russia territories. Wood zones of the sub-boreal belt occupying about 14 % of flat territories of Russia are characterized by different kinds of podsolic, sod-podsolic soils, lesser by brown and grey wood ones. The subzones of southern taiga and mixed woods lands are most agriculturally developed among all taiga territories. Agricultural lands occupy here 17,3 % of total area including arable lands with about 10 %.
More than 70 % of the territories of the country are hardly suitable for dwelling or agriculture.
The most productive are the soils of forest-steppes and steppes of Russia. They cover more than 12 % of all flat areas of the country. Gray wood soils, black earth soils and leach soils are most distributed in this region.
Favorable soil and climatic conditions of the black earth zone predetermined intensive use of these lands. With the exception of ravines and swamp territories there is no natural vegetation in this region. Today agricultural lands occupy more than 57 % of forest-steppes (including arable lands - about 40 %) and 73 % of the steppe zone (arable lands - about 47 %). The European part of the country has even higher percentage of agricultural lands, especially in Pre-Caucasian territories. 85-90 % of some regions of this zone are agricultural lands. It is a principle grain-producing area of Russia.
Chestnut soils are more typical of dry steppes (about 1,3 % of the Russian Federation territory). There are three subtypes of such soils: dark chestnut soils (4-5 % of humus); chestnut soils (3-4 % of humus) and light chestnut soils (2-3 % of humus). Agricultural lands occupy more than 85 % of the territories including arable lands with 52 %, and pastures - about 34 %. Arable lands are concentrated mainly in a subzone of dark chestnut soils. They are more fertile and better watered.
The zone of semideserts and deserts (0,9 % of the Russian Federation) mainly consists of light chestnut and brown desert-steppe soils, mostly solonetzic, meadow-chestnut soils, saline lands and tracts of sand. Agriculture is possible only applying artificial irrigation. These soils are characterized by a low content of humus and almost universal salinity.
Differences in soils quality and their suitability for various kinds of land tenure demand development of uniform system of classification. The following categories of lands may be distinguished:
1. Lands of agricultural enterprises, organizations, citizens, i.e. the territories that are directly used for agricultural purposes.
2. The lands under the jurisdiction of cities', settlements' and villages' administrations - the territories that are situated within the limits of inhabited localities.
3. The territories given to industrial enterprises, associations and organizations for realization of special tasks (industrial production, transport, communication, etc.)
4. Nature protection territories. Specially protected conservation areas with natural objects and complexes that have nature protection, scientific, aesthetic, recreational and sanitary value.
5. The wood fund lands - the territories with wood vegetation or assigned for its restoration.
6. The water fund territories: lakes, rivers, glaciers, swamp areas (except for tundra and forest-tundra zones), hydroengineering and other water reservoirs.
7. Reserve territories - these territories are not the subject of property or rent of legal or natural persons.
The total area of Russian soils subject to processes of desertification or potentially dangerous in this respect by various estimations may be from 50 up to 100 million hectares. They locate in the Volga Region, Ciscaucasia, Transbaikalia and in other regions of the Russian Federation.
Sands occupy about 6,3 million hectares; they mainly lie in the territory of the Republic of Kalmykia and Astrakhanskaya oblast, on the terraces of the lower Don and its confluents, in Rostovskaya and Volgogradskaya oblast.
Ravines and gullies increase their areas from year to year (80-100 thousand hectares annually). They are distributed in many regions of the country, especially in mountain and foothill territories. In flat regions their fast formation is registered in Voronezhskaya, Belgorodskaya, Kurskaya, Orlovskaya, Tambovskaya, Lipetskaya, Ryazanskaya, Tulskaya oblast. The areas adjoining to the valleys of large rivers in the Volga Region, are also characterized by high activity of gullies formation.
Conservated lands are mostly located in reserve territories (27 thousand hectares or 16 % of the total area of conservated lands) and in the territories of agricultural enterprises, organizations and citizens - 120 thousand hectares or 70 %