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What is Desertification?

 Desertification (or
desertization) is the
degradation of land in
arid, semi arid and dry
sub-humid areas
resulting primarily from
human activities and
influenced by climatic
 in 2000, drylands occupy nearly half of
Earth’s land area.

 In drylands, water scarcity limits the

production of crops, forage, wood, and other
services ecosystems provide to humans

 Some 10 to 20% of drylands are already

What Causes Desertification?

 Desertification is caused by a combination

of social, political, economic, and natural
factors which vary from region to region.

 Overgrazing is the major

cause of desertification

 In modern times, the use of

fences has prevented
domestic and wild animals
from moving in response to
food availability, and
overgrazing has often

 The use of boreholes and windmills also allows livestock to stay

all-year round in areas formerly grazed only during the rains
when seasonal pans held water.

 Cultivation of marginal lands

 Destruction of vegetation in arid regions, often for fuelwood.

 Poor grazing management after accidental burning of semi-arid


 Incorrect irrigation practices in arid areas can cause salinization,

(the build up of salts in the soil) which can prevent plant growth.
 Increasing human population and poverty contribute to

 Policies that can lead to an unsustainable use of resources and

lack of infrastructures are major contributors to land degradation

 The process of globalization both contributes to desertification

and helps prevent it

 Historically, dryland livelihoods have been based on a mixture of

hunting, gathering, farming, and herding. This mixture varied
with time, place, and culture, since the harsh conditions forced
people to be flexible in land use.
A misconception…

 It is a misconception that droughts cause

desertification. Droughts are common in arid
and semiarid lands. Well-managed lands can
recover from drought when the rains return.
Continued land abuse during droughts,
however, increases land degradation.

 While desertification has received tremendous

publicity by the political and news media, there are
still many things that we don't know about the
degradation of productive lands and the expansion of

 Contrary to many popular reports, desertification is

actually a subtle and complex process of
deterioration that may often be reversible.
What are the effects of desertification?

 Desertification
affects the
livelihoods of
millions of people,
as it occurs on all
continents (except
Women often play a key role in water
Antarctica). management in drylands (Mauritania)
Source: MA
 Desertification reduces the ability of land to support life,
affecting wild species, domestic animals, agricultural crops and
people. The reduction in plant cover that accompanies
desertification leads to accelerated soil erosion by wind and

 Water is lost off the land instead of soaking into the soil to
provide moisture for plants.

 Desertification has environmental impacts that go beyond the

areas directly affected. For instance, loss of vegetation can
increase the formation of large dust clouds that can cause
health problems in more densely populated areas, thousands of
kilometers away. Moreover, the social and political impacts of
desertification also reach non-dryland areas. For example,
human migrations from drylands to cities and other countries
can harm political and economic stability.
How widespread is Desertification?

 About one third of the world's land surface is arid or semi-arid. It

is predicted that global warming will increase the area of desert
climates by 17% in the next century.

 Worldwide, desertification is making approximately 12 million

hectares useless for cultivation every year.

 In the early 1980s it was estimated that, worldwide, 61% of the

3257 million hectares of all productive drylands were moderately
to very severely desertified.
Global Monitoring
 In the last 25 years, satellites have begun to
provide the global monitoring necessary for
improving our understanding of
desertification. Landsat images of the same
area, taken several years apart but during the
same point in the growing season, may
indicate changes in the susceptibility of land
to desertification. Studies using Landsat data
help demonstrate the impact of people and
animals on the Earth.
Is there a link between desertification, global
climate change and biodiversity loss?

 Desertification diminishes biological diversity, a

diversity which contributes to many of the services
provided to humans by dryland ecosystems.
Vegetation and its diversity are key for soil
conservation and for the regulation of surface water
and local climate. Desertification also contributes to
global climate change by releasing to the atmosphere
carbon stored in dryland vegetation and soils.
Countering Desertification!!!

 Desertification has been recognized as a major threat

to biodiversity. Numerous countries have developed
Biodiversity Action Plans to counter its effects,
particularly in relation to the protection of endangered
flora and fauna.
Countering Desertification

 Leguminous plants, which extract nitrogen from the

air and fixe it in the soil, can be planted to restore
 Stones stacked around the base of trees collect
morning dew and help retain soil moisture.
 Artificial grooves can be dug in the ground to retain
rainfall and trap wind-blown seeds.
 In Iran, petroleum is being sprayed over semi-arid
cropland. This coats seedlings to prevent moisture
loss and stop them being blown away.
Countering Desertification

 Windbreaks made from trees and bushes to reduce

soil erosion and evapotranspiration were widely

 Solar ovens and efficient wood burning cook stoves

are being advocated as a means to relieving some of
this pressure upon the environment.
Countering Desertification

 Sand fences are used

throughout the Middle East
and the US, in the same way
snow fences are used in the
north. Placement of straw
grids, each up to a square
meter in area, will also
decrease the surface wind
velocity. Shrubs and trees
planted within the grids are
protected by the straw until
they take root. Trees are planted instead of sand
fences to reduce sand
accumulating in a UAE highway.
Countering Desertification

 Oases and farmlands in

windy regions can be
protected by planting
tree fences or grass

A row of tree fences along the

highway. Plants with fine leaves
can trap sand.
Countering Desertification

 More efficient use of existing water resources

and control of salinization are other effective
tools for improving arid lands. New ways are
being sought to use surface-water resources
such as rain water harvesting or irrigating with
seasonal runoff from adjacent highlands. New
ways are also being sought to find groundwater
resources and to develop more effective ways of
irrigating arid and semiarid lands.
Countering Desertification

 If we are to stop and reverse the degradation

of arid and semiarid lands, we must
understand how and why the rates of climate
change, population growth, and food
production adversely affect these
environments. The most effective intervention
can come only from the wise use of the best
earth-science information available.
Countering Desertification

Straw grids (one of which is shown at left) and vegetation irrigated by

water from the Yellow River stabilize dunes in this part of China's
Tengger Desert (shown at right) and protect a nearby railroad from
windblown sand.
Countering Desertification

From wasteland to vineyard. Ground water and underground

channels help this vineyard flourish on land reclaimed from
desert pavement in China's Turpan Depression.
Desertification in the Philippines…

 In the Philippines, desertification is feared to be

presaged by seasonal aridity.

 The northern tip of Luzon, provinces in the western

portion of the country experiencing Type I climate
(with pronounced dry and wet season), and major
corn and feed grain-producing areas in the southern
tip of Mindanao are exhibiting clear conditions similar
to desertification. These areas are generally
vulnerable to climatic events that contribute to soil
degradation – typhoons, floods, droughts and the
increasing frequency of El Niño and La Niña events.
Desertification in the Philippines…

 35 years ago, Philippines had some 16 million

hectares of rainforests but was already ravaged so
much, leaving only 2.8 percent today and allowing
200,000 hectares more to vanish each year.

 The foremost human factors of desertification are the

overcultivated upland farms, soil erosion, land
degradation, decline in productivity, kaingin system of
farming, and people’s carelessness.
Philippine situationer…
 About 45% of the arable lands in the Philippines have
been moderately to severely eroded triggering the
movement of subsistence farmers to marginal lands
with the hope of meeting their day to day food

 The most common type of land degradation in the

Philippines is soil erosion.

 Excessive use of nitrogen or urea fertilizer, noted in

soil analysis conducted since 1970, has resulted in
nutrient imbalance and contributed to the actual silent
soil degradation called soil mining.
Philippine situationer…

 Topographic variations and problem soils also

contribute to land degradation. Problem soils
characterized by steep slopes, poor drainage, coarse
textures and fertility limitations are dominant in the
Philippines. Volcanic eruptions also degrade the land.

 Another factor is population increase that has

resulted in the expansion of farm and residential
areas to ecologically fragile lands and the increasing
pressure on shrinking and degraded agricultural
lands to produce more food.
Reversing Desertification in the
 In solidarity with the rest of the world, the Philippines
through the Departments of Agriculture, Agrarian
Reform, Environment and Natural Resources, and
Science and Technology came up with the National
Action Plan (NAP) to operationalize its full and
unqualified commitment to implement programs and
project activities that combat desertification, land
degradation and poverty in the drought vulnerable
areas of the country.
Reversing Desertification in the

 Through the NAP, the government will implement

programs in sustainable agriculture and marginal
upland development and integrated ecosystem
management through five components. These are
land and water technology development; local
governance and community initiatives; data base
development and harmonization; information,
education and communication; and enabling policy
Reversing Desertification in the

 Until 2010, the government aims to establish 5,000

community learning centers to train 15,000 upland
dwellers and develop community initiatives on local
area management. It will also construct in critical
watershed areas some 100,000 small water retention
structures that will benefit one million farmers and
provide jobs to another one million upland dwellers.
Reversing Desertification in the

 Farmers will be taught balanced fertilization or the

proper combination of inorganic and organic
fertilizers to reduce the dependence on chemical
fertilizers by 300% at the end of 2010. The
government will implement programs that will prevent
further expansion of land degradation and avert
desertification, rehabilitate critical watershed
ecosystems in Mindanao and Luzon strategic areas
to improve agriculture and fisheries production, as
well as rehabilitate/reestablish minor forest products.
Reversing Desertification in the

 To escape the desert, we must stop

desertification by leaving unsustainable
land use practices behind us!!!!