Get exclusive access to content from our 1768 First Edition with your subscription. Conservation Education 07 - DesertsDownload. Scientists still debate over what constitutes desertified land, … Home to a third of the human population in 2000, drylands occupy nearly half of Earths land area. Read More: Credits. Africa is the simple answer to the question: where is desertification happening? When used to irrigate crops, runoff evaporates and leaves behind much of the salts that it collected. Severe land degradation leading to desertification is now affecting over 168 countries around the world. More specifically, desertification plays its largest role in the grasslands of East Africa, the Kalahari Desert and the Sahara Desert. Organizations such as the Great Green Wall and the Global Drylands Initiative are working to create a world in which desertification can be prevented for future generations. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). The UNCCD set out a definition of dese… In fact, natural deserts do not even have to be close to areas where desertification happens. To further the answer of, “where is desertification happening?” it’s important to note those that are successfully fighting against the issue. People living in areas where desertification is occurring are more likely to face poverty. By their very nature, arid and semiarid ecosystems are characterized by sparse or variable rainfall. The concept does not refer to the physical expansion of existing deserts but rather to the various processes that threaten all dryland ecosystems, including deserts as well as grasslands and scrublands. Rainwater results from the condensation of water evaporated by sunlight. Land that is susceptible to desertification can become uninhabitable if not managed with sustainable environmental practices. We need to follow what is happening in the Sahel, in India, in China and in the other menaced areas, such as the ones in the Mediterranean Arch, the south of Africa, Central America and large Andean areas. The conference explored the causes and contributing factors and also possible local and regional solutions to the phenomenon. Those affected by poverty are less likely to practice environmentally-sustainable actions. It results to soil becoming less usable and in damage of vegetation. Certainly, some dryland areas have been irrigated for millennia, but other areas are more fragile. Desertification is becoming a major problem as more and more of the world's land surface is turned into desert. There is an important difference between rainwater and the water used for dryland irrigation. Currently, 1 billion people live in areas vulnerable to desertification. This, in turn, creates a vicious cycle of poverty and environmental deterioration. It occurs when trees and bushes are stripped away for firewood and timber, or to clear land for cultivation. The fight against desertification is a challenge that affects all the inhabitants of the planet. Desertification is a type of land degradation in drylands in which biological productivity is lost due to natural processes or induced by human activities whereby fertile areas become increasingly arid. It occurs when intensive farming depletes the nutrients in the soil. This is caused by human activity such as deforestation and over-cultivation. These salts can build up in the soil unless additional water is used to flush them out. Malawi, for example, has a GDP per capita of $338.50 and an average lifespan of only 63 years. Learn more about the Sahel here. Approximately 42 percent of the planet is covered by dry land. Low rainfall and locusts caused a food crisis during the summer of 2005. The impact of climate change and human activities are present in these areas with high levels of desertification compared to other areas in the world. At least 70 per cent of Ethiopia is prone to desertification. As Africa’s population continues to grow and desertification continues to be ignored, more of the land becomes arid and uninhabitable. This is due to the low soil fertility and bedrocks found across the continent. Desertification is also far from being a new global crisis: Ancient empires, including Sumeria, Babylon and Rome, were dealt its debilitating effects. To better understand how climatic changes and human activities contribute to the process of desertification, the consequences listed above can be grouped into four broad areas: Nearly 2,750,000 square km (about 1,062,000 square miles) of croplands are irrigated. Desertification occurs when the tree and plant cover that binds the soil is removed. Causes and consequences of desertification, https://www.britannica.com/science/desertification, Young People's Trust For The Environment - Desertification, NASA - Earth Observatory - Desertification, desertification - Student Encyclopedia (Ages 11 and up), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Desertification may intensify a general climatic trend toward greater aridity, or it may initiate a change in local climate. African drylands (which include the Sahara, the Kalahari, and the grasslands of East Africa) span 20 million square km (about 7.7 million square miles), some 65 percent of the continent. The good news is that there are people looking to help. In Ethiopia, 80 percent of the land is at risk of desertification. It forms a transitional zone between the arid Sahara (desert) to the north and the belt of humid savannas to the south. Battles over land and resources will blow up into full-scale wars, much like what is already happening in parts of Asia and Africa that are most vulnerable to the risks of desertification and climate change. However, it can be challenging to understand how this issue affects the planet. Sheep, cattle and goats are … Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. In general, desertification is caused by variations in climate and by unsustainable land-management practices in dryland environments. – The Huffington Post, https://borgenproject.org/wp-content/uploads/The_Borgen_Project_Logo_small.jpg, Deforestation in Senegal and the Women of Kaffrine, Erna Solberg and Her Fight for Female Education, the continent loses about 280 million tonnes. The mission is to create government policies which monitor desertification through scientific basis. Desertification can also be linked to poverty because it creates climates which are not suitable for food production and other economic activities. Photo credit: Nature World News. In 1994, the UN established the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) as the “sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management”. Most salt-degraded cropland occurs in Asia and southwestern North America, which account for 75 and 15 percent of the worldwide total, respectively. Across the world, desertification affects the livelihoods of millions of people who rely on the benefits that dryland ecosystems can provide. In Ethiopia, 80 percent of the land is at risk of desertification. Thus, climatic changes such as those that result in extended droughts can rapidly reduce the biological productivity of those ecosystems. Slightly less than half of Earth’s ice-free land surface—approximately 52 million square km (about 20 million square miles)—is drylands, and these drylands cover some of the world’s poorest countries. According to the UNEP (United Nations Environment Program), 36 million square miles of the world are currently affected by this. Desertification definition, the processes by which an area becomes a desert. The main cause of declining biological productivity in irrigated croplands is the accumulation of salts in the soil. Thus, creating a vicious cycle between poverty and desertification. John P. Rafferty writes about Earth processes and the environment. Grazing lands, which are harmed by overgrazing, soil. Desertification is the expansion of desert into the surrounding areas.