Its depletion causes desertification as the water table falls disrupting the equilibrium. Populations move to find land that can provide the food and water they need. As you may have noticed, desertification problems are often related and lead to one another. The document further goes on examining the serious and complex web of problems that have arisen from worsening land degradation of the earth’s drylands, which are home to 2,000 million people, comprise of 44 percent of all the world’s cultivated land and should sustain 50 percent of the world’s livestock . These places often draw high amounts of groundwater from natural aquifers, not letting them naturally replenish and eventually facing water scarcity just like Cape Town in South Africa. Overgrazing is the major cause of desertification worldwide. Desertification often leads to a loss of habitats for many animals and plants. Overpopulation and overexploitation of natural resources, Famine, poverty and political instability, Increased vulnerability to natural disasters, Rise of famine, poverty and social conflicts, Caused historical collapses of civilizations, The official definition by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), likely to battle with some of the negative effects of desertification, “We have been almost buried: the Sudanese villages being swallowed by sand.”, the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Lessons from the Past: Civilizations Lost Due to the Environmental Destruction, ‘Desertification: The invisible frontline’. And it was good they did, because since then, the area they have been cultivating became one of the biggest deserts on Earth – the Sahara Desert. But the problem appears when we try to change these natural cycles and expect a steady crop production or sufficient pasture for livestock from these lands all year long. You may be even able to identify the most vulnerable areas yourself, as they include grasslands, steppes, prairies, savannahs, shrublands and woodlands. All of the issues that we’ve talked about above (related to the problem of desertification) can lead to poverty if it is not kept in check. A long-term change in climate could make an area more desert-like without human intervention, but so far there is no evidence to support that this is happening. 2. Barren soils lack this green filter, and therefore, many harmful substances enter groundwater reservoirs or easily wash off into lakes and rivers. Less food … Desertification is one of the world's most pressing environmental issues, but it's not irreversible. The war that has been going for nearly a decade now [18,19,20]. Mining is another big reason for desertification. UNCCD estimates that advancing desertification could displace globally 50 million people in the next 10 years . Desertification is a process of degradation of the land. By stripping the soil of its nutrients, desertification becomes more of a reality for the area that is being used for farming. This can cost a lot of money to try and do, so many farmers will have to sell their land and leave the desert areas. During the rainy season, the vast grass plains turn lush green, providing a rich grazing opportunity to hundreds of thousands of the Africa’s most iconic herbivores, only to fade when the dry season comes. Our goal is to inspire people to change their attitudes and behaviors toward a more sustainable life. In countries where policy change will actually be enforced on those in the country, policy change related to how often people can farm and how much they can farm on certain areas could be put into place to help reduce the problems that are often associated with farming and desertification. Desertification is a significant global ecological and environmental problem.”. There are a variety of factors that cause the issue of desertification. Also, due to desertification, the soil becomes unsuitable for agriculture, and there may be a huge loss of food. Due to unrestricted grazing of the steppe by livestock combined with the influence of climate change, Syrian land has become so damaged that it has turn into lifeless dust. For example, up to 50 percent of the Canadian Prairies spreading over Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are likely to battle with some of the negative effects of desertification in the upcoming years. As the soil dries out, it hardens, and it becomes difficult for any rainfall that does occur to penetrate below the soil’s surface. When it comes to health effects, dusty desert air can cause respiratory diseases. In the introduction of a document called ‘Desertification: The invisible frontline’ from UNCCD is stated: “Desertification is a silent, invisible crisis that is destabilizing communities on a global scale.”. Events such as flash floods, landslides and dust storms, become stronger in areas with heavily degraded soils. A major effect of desertification is the decrease in crop yields. Sadly, the very same process continues to threaten the existence of at least 1.5 billion people (mainly from developing countries) until the present day . Why Is Biodiversity Important to Ecosystems. Also Know, what impact does desertification have on humans? These include things like climate change, deforestation, and overexploitation of soil by farming . The official definition by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) that has been widely used since it’s formulation in 1994 is: “desertification is land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas resulting from various factors, including climatic fluctuations and human activities.” UNCCD also highlights that it is important to note that desertification is not a natural process of deserts expanding to new regions, it is a form of land degradation caused primarily by human activity in vulnerable areas. There is probably no need to explain how crucial these services are for our wellbeing. Additionally, artificially added water also rises otherwise low groundwater level which in turn dissolves even more salts . Let’s take a closer look at all of these topics. Desertification reduces the ability of land to support plant life. 30 million acres) more turn into barren deserts every year [1,2]. By taking that critical look at desertification, we have the tools that we need in order to get through the processes effectively. Villages that were once surrounded by forests so dense that you could get lost in them, are now disappearing under the sand. This leads to increased sedimentation and eutrophication–both processes disturb aquatic ecosystems and deteriorate water quality. Some of these families then end up living in poverty in slums. When this happens, weakening soils get also directly exposed to wind, which often picks up last pieces of drying topsoil and mixes them with dust from already degraded parts, exacerbating the problem and creating far-reaching dust storms. (And 9 Ways to Reuse Old Photos), Are Aluminum Cans Recyclable? Water scarcity in drylands limits the production of wood, crops, forage, and other services that ecosystems provide to our community. It means that the effects of desertification can be extremely serious and not only for us, but for the balance of the whole planet. And try to do everything in our power to help protect natural resources we have. This usually strips the soil of nutrients, which in turn kills the plant life, and eventually leads to the process of becoming a desert biome as time goes on. Therefore, planting trees in the affected areas not only prevents desertification but also fights against additional environmental issues. As areas become more urbanized, there are fewer places for plants to grow, thus causing desertification. Whereas using those areas for other purposes may turn them into arid land in the long run. The bare soil then easier dries out and turns to dust, which can be blown and washed away in a single storm. The Eurocentric view of … However, as the trend of urbanization increases, the demand for resources only grows bigger, drawing more and more resources and leaving behind degraded lands that easily succumb to desertification. If an area becomes a desert, the water quality is going to become a lot worse than it would have been otherwise. Thus to fulfill our demand, we have to optimize our farming processes to harvest even higher crop yields. Unfortunately, due to the unsustainable water management of diverting water to rice paddies, soil salinity has increased, forcing farmers to use high amounts of fertilizer to save their harvest. The world’s drylands cover approximately 40 percent of the total land mass. For 50 years, large herds of livestock grazed over the Syrian steppe until the effects couldn’t be overlooked anymore. (And Ways to Dispose of Them), Are Yogurt Cups Recyclable? Most plants are quite sensitive to their natural living conditions. In dry regions, grass and other small vegetation is necessary to keep the soil in place to prevent erosion and further damage to the soil. Desertification causes increased levels of migration. Examples of civilizations that met their doom due to droughts include the Carthage Civilization, the Harappan Civilization, people groups in Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, and people groups in Ancient China . (And 7 Ways to Reuse), Are Egg Shells Recyclable? Once the overexploitation takes place, desertification often follows, leaving behind only barren land and misery for those who haven’t left. The main causes of desertification include: Population growth - the population in some desert areas is increasing. So much could be written about the effects of climate change on the health of our lands, as climate change can lead to land degradation for many reasons, and it is very often climate change that exacerbates the progress of desertification in increasingly many places. Be it true or not, unfavorable conditions still forced early people to leave their homes and everything they were familiar with. There have been many records of water scarcity and pollution problems that are linked to desertification or other forms of land degradation across dry African and Asian countries. Urbanization, logging, mining, overgrazing, alterations in soil moisture, air pollution, fires, chemical pollution, and leaching out of minerals all damage or destroy soils. Flooding is not the only problem, sand storms are another big issue, mainly because wind-blown particles (including those that are polluted) can travel long distances and cause health problems to people even in distant urban areas. One of the very recent examples of climate-induced desertification is the disappearance of the lake Poopó, lying in a high altitude of semi-arid plains in Bolivian Andes. The loss of fertile land to desertification has brought an end to many majestic civilizations throughout the human history. Furthermore, through the use of unsustainable irrigation techniques, salt concentration can also rise in many cultivated soils, rendering the soil useless for growing crops or other plants. Some farmers do not know how to use the land effectively. In recent years, the desert has advanced southward to lake Chad, which used to be an important source of water and livelihood for 30 million people from eight African countries, but dramatic declines in water level due to droughts and loss of land to desertification have brought only insecurity and suffering upon these communities . Without farms in these areas, the food that those farms produce will become much scarcer, and the people who live in those local areas will be a lot more likely to try and deal with hunger problems. This process can happen due to a number of reasons, but much of the desertification that is occurring around the world today is caused by human activity, such as deforestation or improper agricultural methods. This list of causes and impacts of desertification is just a brief fraction of the whole scope of such an extensive problem taking place on our lands every day. People have been always on the lookout for fertile lands where they can build their settlements and prosper over long time periods. When soil becomes polluted due to various human activities, the respective area of land may suffer from desertification in the long run. That means also less rain throughout the year. The following are some of the primary causes of desertification in our world. Once land turns from arable to arid, it is often on longer suitable for farming purposes anymore. All problems related to desertification can eventually be traced back to water related problems. The problem of worsening desertification doesn’t have to be linked only to agricultural lands, unsustainable water management happens even in cities and tourist destinations that are build in arid or semi-arid areas. These are huge numbers and huge level of dependency upon these lands that should not fail us. Another common problem of the crop cultivation in vulnerable areas is the employment of improper irrigation methods, such as canal irrigation. Keep reading to learn more about the causes and effects of desertification as well as the best methods for bringing it to a halt. They can cope with incremental challenges and adapt, but beyond a certain tipping point they collapse. Let us know if you liked this article. Causes and effects of drought: During dry and hot weather periods, ... desertification sets in. Unlike the natural desert ecosystem with well-adapted species still inhabiting the area, desertified lands are often devoid of natural life without a healthy ecosystem in place that would perform life-supporting services, like new soil formation and nutrient cycling. Unfortunately, outcomes of their compromised livelihoods are often poor land use practices, such as grazing animals on eroding lands, illegal cutting of forests and unsustainable crop cultivation, which only contribute to the soil destruction beyond repair and put lives of people even more in danger. They can also affect the formation and lifetimes of clouds, potentially making rainfall less likelya… The reasons why this has happened are longer periods of droughts and the overextraction of water for irrigation and mining projects . This results in mass migrations out of rural areas and into urban areas (urbanisation), particularly in Africa. This is because plant life plays a significant role in keeping the water clean and clear; without its presence, it becomes a lot more difficult for you to be able to do that. Just look at previously mentioned examples, they all point to this conclusion. The same happens even at this very moment and will be happening in the future. The environment (the Earth) is the place we call home. Compared with the data from 1920s, Sahara has already expanded by 10 percent. A sad example of the destructive power of such a mismanagement is the drying out of the Aral Sea. Deserts And Desertification The Causes And Consequences 1. If there are too many animals that are overgrazing in certain spots, it makes it difficult for the plants to grow back, which hurts the biome and makes it lose its former green glory. In many cases, increased water runoff from desertified areas wreaks havoc on neighboring lands, eroding soils, damaging vegetation and making soils extremely vulnerable to encroaching desert. Many African countries, especially in the Sahel area, are experiencing insecurity that only gets worse and worse every year. (And 5 Ways to Reuse Old Bottles), Is Denim Eco-Friendly? Furthermore, additional problem arises from the space problems. This means that natural resources, which are continuously needed for the proper functioning of any densely inhabited area, have to be taken from the surrounding environment. Do you know what that means? Our overall level of consumption is also increasing at a steady rate. Superb Article . Since small subsistence farmers do not have the means to ward off sand dunes crashing their houses and burying their crops, all they have left is to gather their possessions and leave. Higher the level of pollution more will be the degradation of soil over time. Desertification affects topsoil, groundwater reserves, surface runoff, human, animal, and plant populations. 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