Desertification

Affected Regions

Desertification affects arid, semi-arid, and sub-humid areas- areas such as these held 1/5 of the world population in 2000.

Factors making a location vulnerable include:

  1. Infrequent and unpredictable rainfall
  2. Large variations in temperature between day and night
  3. Poor soil
  4. A scarce water supply

Regions of the world that suffer the most from desertification:

  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Southwest Asia
  • Western United States
  • Northwest Asia
  • Australia

Why There?

Source: http://www.env.go.jp/en/nature/desert/download/p2.pdf

The graphic above shows some of the main causes of desertification in various regions. Some specific human activities causing desertification are:

  • Overgrazing causes desertification because the vegetation that keeps the soil from being eroded is stripped away. This is the leading cause in developed and less developed countries.
  • Overcultivation causes desertification and degradation of soil because more agriculture than land can support exhausts the soil's nutrients.
  • Deforestation causes desertification in the same way as overgrazing- tree roots that once prevented erosion are no longer there. This is especially common in countries where wood-burning provides the majority of energy.
  • Increased resource demand/use causes desertification ining causes degradation of soil in some parts of the world, and overpopulation increases strain on resources, making a larger food supply necessary. This leads to increased land use.
  • Bad irrigation practices cause desertification and salinization, salting of the earth, because without a sufficient water supply evenly distributed to farmlands, the land dries up. And, the increased strain on water supplies means there may not be enough water to irrigate land and meet the drinking water needs of the public.

While many agricultural factors such as overgrazing and overcultivation affect countries regardless of development levels, factors such as poverty and political instability can contribute in developing countries.

Desertification is caused by continued land abuse even during the droughts that occur in dry climates, not the droughts themselves.

Consequences

  • Malnutrition- because there isn't enough food and water to go around, basic needs are not being met and this damages health.
  • Water and Food-Borne Disease- Water and food-borne illnesses are caused by water scarcity and water mismanagement. There is no sufficient water infrastructure in place, so water is unhygienic.
  • Respiratory Disease- caused by air-borne sediment from soil eroded by wind, which is inhaled involuntarily and creates health problems.
  • Relocation of People- People must leave their countries because the conditions can no longer support them.

Possible and Current Solutions

Less livestock

Sand fences

More efficient water use

Planting vegetation to protect land from erosion

Interesting Facts

A town in Texas during the Dust Bowl. (Wikipedia)
  • The United States famously experienced desertification during the Dust Bowl. This is an example of how bad agricultural practices can severely harm even developed countries.
  • 6% of inhabits of dry land experience desertification.

Further Information

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