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desertification causes and effects


Not many people realize this when walking on the streets of their city or some magnificent tourist resort, but in order to build these structures, original ecosystems had to be irreversibly wiped out. Desertification is a significant global ecological and environmental problem.”. According to a new hypothesis, scientists believe that herds of domestic goats and vegetation burning to cultivate grasslands of the previously green Sahara could have sped up the process of drying up. (And Is It Bad For Environment), Are Solar Panels Recyclable? What remains left is only a lifeless pile of dust instead of a life-giving medium. Besides, while preparing the soil for sowing, natural vegetation that holds the brittle soil in place is removed, letting the last bits of the productive soil layer fully wear away in just a few short seasons. This means that the original ecosystem of these lands is well-adapted to withstand dry seasons during which plants enter so called summer dormancy, a temporary cessation of growth, in order to preserve themselves, only to turn green and strong as soon as rains come again. As soon as livelihoods are endangered, people turn against each other, which sets in motion series of events that lead to the collapse. (And 7 Ways to Reuse), Are Egg Shells Recyclable? Quick Navigation for The Major Causes and Effects of Desertification, [1] Desertification propels the loss of biodiversity on a large-scale. This results in serious migration movements. Other causes can be as simple … The cause may vary from region to region on account of economic conditions, population pressure, agricultural practices, and … They are home to more than 2 billion people, so it is clear that many of these areas are farmed, even though they are very fragile and can easily turn barren. 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. It is no wonder, that throughout history, desertification events have been a major driver behind migrations of large human populations. Animal grazing is a huge problem for many areas that are starting to become desert biomes. While desertification certainly leads to these problems, they can also be its cause. The situation in Mongolia is alarming, particularly because this land degradation has taken place just recently. What is Renewable Energy and What are Sources of Renewable Energy? Without plant life in an area, flooding is a lot more imminent. As desertification occurs, this most productive layer of the soil gets blown or washed away from the surface rather quickly because there is no vegetation that would protect it, and nutrients with organic material are lost for good. Mining is another big reason for desertification. Desertification is a process by which fertile land is transformed into desert as it becomes progressively drier and unable to support any plant growth for food production. Excessive Use of Fertilizers and Pesticides, 6. With plants dying, already scarce rainwater gets washed away instead of being drawn into the soil, which only scales up the problem as remaining plants do not have enough moisture to survive dry spells as they used to. Deforestation is one of the leading human causes of desertification. Trees and other forms of vegetation are vital in protecting the soil and evaporating water … These factors include very high birth rates and thus expansion of agriculture into unsuitable areas, uncontrolled tree cutting for a fuel, all connected with effects of climate change and bad government policies. All problems related to desertification can eventually be traced back to water related problems. The loss of land to desertification has major impact on many places on our planet today and is expected to affect humanity even more in the future as population numbers will grow bigger and the availability of natural resources will decline. We should not forget that most of the human settlements were built along fertile soils, rivers, or other resourceful places that offered some great advantage to their inhabitants. These negative events are directly linked to the wellbeing of people. As mentioned previously, grasses and other perennial plants also prevent water runoff by slowing it down and promoting rainwater infiltration into soils. It occurs because of man-made activities and climate change. Desertification has destroyed even lives of nomadic Bedouins and farmers in Syria. Land desertification, species extinction and climate transformation, these three problems all are a long term problem to the world. For 50 years, large herds of livestock grazed over the Syrian steppe until the effects couldn’t be overlooked anymore. Superb Article . Countries affected by desertification do not have to be located only in hot regions of the world because it is the local climate and land use that shape the health of the land. Unless climate change is slowed down, huge areas of land will become desert; some of those areas may even become uninhabitable as time goes on. Once land turns from arable to arid, it is often on longer suitable for farming purposes anymore. The health impacts of desertification and drought [pdf, 1.3 Mb] Review. Duanyang Xu, Xiaogang You, Chunlin Xia, Assessing the spatial-temporal pattern and evolution of areas sensitive to land desertification in North China, Ecological Indicators, 10.1016/j.ecolind.2018.10.005, 97, (150-158), (2019). However, it is the paradox of life that especially in these vulnerable regions, animal herding is often the only livelihood people can have and there are no restrictions in place that would regulate the maximum number of animals for a given space. According to UNESCO, one-third of world’s land surface is threatened by desertification, and across the world, it affects the livelihood of millions of people who depend on the benefits of ecosystems that drylands provide. By adding these to what we should be doing with land, we can ensure that we don’t turn the entire world into a 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. However, this excessive optimization of farming will hurt the soil and will eventually turn into the desertification of land in the long run. 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 [1]. In turn, many farmers may lose their livelihood, since they often solely rely on farming as their single source of income. 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. As “harsh” as this may sound, the reason is very simple. You may be even able to identify the most vulnerable areas yourself, as they include grasslands, steppes, prairies, savannahs, shrublands and woodlands. It is where we live, breathe, eat and raise our children. 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. Desertification is caused by a number of different issues. Overpopulation and excessive consumption, 9. It is caused by a variety of factors, such as climate change and human activities. Urbanization and Other Types of Land Development, 11. The link between soil erosion and other consequences of desertification only confirms this, as erosion is another negative outcome but also a catalyst of previously mentioned problems. 2. Furthermore, additional problem arises from the space problems. Vegetation plays an important role in cleaning our water. The main causes of desertification include: Population growth - the population in some desert areas is increasing. 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. Do we have so much free land available that we do not need to be concerned about this? Majority of those who are affected the most by this problem are as usual the world’s poorest nations where people struggle daily with the direct impacts of climate turning against them, and deserts claiming more of their already scarce soils. Loose soil buries plants or exposes their roots to the sun, so they cannot fulfill their function. Causes of Desertification: 1. Groundwater is the freshwater found underground and also one of the largest water sources. According to the newest data, the Sahara Desert has been gradually spreading over the grasslands in the neighboring Sahel area. By stripping the soil of its nutrients, desertification becomes more of a reality for the area that is being used for farming. Not only that up to 6 million people suffer of hunger in the Chad Basin recently, they are also terrorized by Boko Haram, one of the most dangerous terrorist groups in the world. A true environmentalist by heart ❤️. 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. Desertification is whereby the lands become infertile and bare, frequently as a result of overgrazing and is exacerbated by drought which makes it difficult for such lands to recover. Since 1990s, when the lack of jobs due to the breakup of the Soviet Union forced people to rear livestock as their only possibility to earn money [6]. The areas that have been subject to deforestation in the past should be considered for reforestation. There are plenty of sustainable practices that can be applied to those acts that may be causing desertification. The main causes of desertification include: Population growth - the population in some desert areas is increasing. The environment (the Earth) is the place we call home. The same happens even at this very moment and will be happening in the future. Without plants stabilizing the soil and slowing down the runoff, rainwater flows faster and floods human settlements in the blink of an eye. Dust particles in the atmosphere can scatter incoming radiation from the sun, reducing warming locally at the surface, but increasing it in the air above. The following are some of the primary causes of desertification in our world. and space to grow food and build settlements. That means also less rain throughout the year. Once the soil is degraded and the precious nutrients are lost, only infertile and lifeless swaths of land are left behind. This is driven by a number of factors – alone or in combination – such as overgrazing, deforestation, farming (mal )practices , urbanization, land 'development', climate change, exploitation of land resources, natural disasters and population growth. Our entire life support system depends on the well-being of … The bare soil then easier dries out and turns to dust, which can be blown and washed away in a single storm. Plants and trees function like natural water filters, storing pollutants, such as heavy metals, pesticide residues, fertilizers and other, in their own bodies. Local communities that used to live by the lake rich with fish and biodiversity, live now only amidst dust, pesticide pollution and scorching heat. Policy Changes Related to How People can Farm, Trump's Anti-Wind Stance Even Makes Him Falsely Claim Wind Turbine Noise To Cause Cancer, 2. If an area becomes a desert, then it’s almost impossible to grow substantial crops there without special technologies. Salt buildup on cultivated lands, then, makes it difficult for crops and other plants to grow, further exacerbating degradation of these lands. Causes of land desertification are a combination of natural phenomena and human activities. Forests are being chopped down at an alarming rate, leading to massive desertification in various regions of the planet. Overgrazing is the major cause of desertification worldwide. There have been numerous cases when overgrazed areas of land became severely damaged. Once the overexploitation takes place, desertification often follows, leaving behind only barren land and misery for those who haven’t left. This is another very alarming aspect of the desertification problem, because we need biodiverse ecosystems to survive. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another habitable planet, do remember that there really is no 'Planet B' in this whole universe. The reasons why this has happened are longer periods of droughts and the overextraction of water for irrigation and mining projects [12]. (And Ways to Dispose of Them), Are Yogurt Cups Recyclable? 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. They may essentially strip the land of everything that it has before moving on to another plot of land. People have been always on the lookout for fertile lands where they can build their settlements and prosper over long time periods. All Rights Reserved . 10 Facts About Desertification. Overgrazing is the major cause of desertification worldwide. There are a variety of factors that cause the issue of desertification. There is probably no need to explain how crucial these services are for our wellbeing. One of the latest humanitarian crises has been declared in countries that have been dependent upon resources provided by lake Chad, where lake water gets quickly replaced by inhospitable sand dunes, destroying fishing and farming communities. (Granger 1990). Mining often implies the destruction of large areas of land. Forests are being cut down at much larger scale than ever before, to be used as fuel, to provide products we use in our daily life, or to simply create more space for agriculture to sustain growing human population. By the time most of the natural resources have been extracted, and mining practices are no more profitable, the soil gets damaged significantly, and the land becomes arid, which may not be recoverable, and desertification occurs. 30 million acres) more turn into barren deserts every year [1,2]. After desertification, regions suffer from water shortages due to climate change and animals may suffer and die since water is vital for all life on our planet. Some farmers do not know how to use the land effectively. Keep reading to learn more about the causes and effects of desertification as well as the best methods for bringing it to a halt. Deserts And Desertification The Causes And Consequences 1. Some causes of desertification are natural, whilst others are human derived. The adverse effects of desertification also include floods in heavy rainfall regions, land, water, and air pollution, storms and several other natural disasters, all of which can be fatal to human life. In turn, many farmers may lose their livelihood, since they often solely rely on farming as their single source of income. The Causes of Desertification. By putting these together, we can prevent the issue from becoming even more widespread in the areas that have already been affected. Not all deserts are dry; those that are wet could experience a lot of flooding because there is nothing to stop the water from gathering and going all over the place. This is caused, and acts in concert with, a number of other factors — including drought, overgrazing, deforestation, common agricultural practices, and changes in the climate. Desertification makes natural disasters worse because it reduces natural resilience of ecosystems. They can also affect the formation and lifetimes of clouds, potentially making rainfall less likelya… Desertification comes about by a complex interaction between the natural environment and human activities. The war that has been going for nearly a decade now [18,19,20]. After some time, no vegetation remains to prevent soil from blowing or washing away. Thus to fulfill our demand, we have to optimize our farming processes to harvest even higher crop yields. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case, as they often lack the skills that are needed for urban jobs. Our planet’s ecosystems sustain life only when balanced. Therefore, planting trees in the affected areas not only prevents desertification but also fights against additional environmental issues. We need abundance of plants and animal species richness to have oxygen to breathe, clean water to drink and nutritious food to eat. 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 [22]. A major effect of desertification is the decrease in crop yields. (And Can You Sell Them? When the trees and other vegetation in an area are gone, there are no roots that would hold soils in place, there is no canopy that would shield the ground from the direct rainfall or from the sun’s heat. With significantly reduced rainfall, drought occurs and triggers problems such as failing harvests, drying creeks and boreholes, poor pasture that weakens livestock, and more frequent outbreaks of wildfires that destroy remaining vegetation. Urbanization, logging, mining, overgrazing, alterations in soil moisture, air pollution, fires, chemical pollution, and leaching out of minerals all damage or destroy soils. That doesn’t sounds like such a bright future, does it? These pollutants then remain deposited in the soil or wash off into rivers, creeks or lakes. 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. When soil becomes polluted due to various human activities, the respective area of land may suffer from desertification in the long run. We are a couple of environmentalists who seek inspiration for life in simple values based on our love for nature. But it is important to realize one thing if we want to know how does climate change cause desertification. 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. Causes of Desertification. Scientists have, for example, confirmed that overgrazing is the primary reason why around 70 percent of the once pasture rich Mongolian steppe is slowly overtaken by the Gobi Desert now. Additionally, if the land is used for grazing at this stage, it only results in a quicker loss of plant species and total degradation. The reason is simple, people lost their ability to grow food, water resources became scarce and their animals got weak from not having enough to eat. Whereas using those areas for other purposes may turn them into arid land in the long run. Desertification often leads to a loss of habitats for many animals and plants. Boko Haram is believed to constitute of young people deprived of livelihood possibilities due to constant disputes over disappearing water among diverse ethnic groups, inhabiting the area [17]. 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. 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. Do you know what that means? Besides other contributing factors, Sahel farmers are partially to blame because they have removed trees to cultivate crops in this semi-arid area, and thus speeding up Sahel desertification by exposing soils to erosion [15]. 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 [13]. Can You Recycle Photos? Also Know, what impact does desertification have on humans? Higher food prices, water availability, violent conflicts for land, migration, increasing poverty, pollution from wind-blown dust particles coming from distant lands, could be the outcomes of desertification if we let it consume more of our planet. Read more about us. Research is the key to overcome most of our environmental problems, and it applies to desertification also. 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. UNCCD estimates that advancing desertification could displace globally 50 million people in the next 10 years [21]. 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. The desertification results in a decline in population for which species may become endangered or even extinct. Why Is Biodiversity Important to Ecosystems. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. It can also cause issues with the soil due to chemicals and other things that may harm the ground. Soil pollution is a significant cause of desertification. A rapid increase in human population, especially in vulnerable areas of Africa and Asia, has exceeded the recovery capacity of dryland ecosystems. Desertification is another major environmental concern and a significant barrier to meeting basic human needs in drylands and is being constantly threatened by increases in human pressures and climatic variability. This includes natural filtration of water for drinking, climate regulation, recycling of nutrients, carbon sequestration, soil regeneration. The causes of desertification. 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. Desertification often causes rural lands to become unable to support the same sized populations that previously lived there. Addresses the land issues identified by UNEP regional groups, and highlights the pressures of human demands on the land resource as the cause of land degradation. In the long run, this may turn from arable into arid land over time, and it will no longer be suitable for farming purposes after a few years of excessive farming since the soil has been damaged too much over time. Others include “changes in vegetation cover, surface albedo (reflectivity of the Earth’s surface), and greenhouse gases fluxes”, she adds. It is these problems that pressure people to slip into the vicious cycle of repeating all the previously listed causes of desertification–actions which naturally open up the door to the ecological catastrophe of irreversible land degradation. Overgrazing: ADVERTISEMENTS: By pounding the soil with their hooves, livestock compact the substrate, increase the proportion of fine material, and reduce the percolation rate of the soil, thus encouraging erosion by wind and water. Topsoil is crucial for plant growth because it contains most of the organic matter and 50 percent of important nutrients such as phosphorus and potassium. For example, China’s autonomous region of Ningxia owes its existence to the Yellow River, which has been the only life giver to communities of rice farmers in this arid land that is encircled by sand dunes. While farmers despair about their inability to cultivate rice fields, local agronomists confirm that it was the water overextraction to create rice paddies that has significantly contributed to the current desert expansion [10]. As we continue to remove natural vegetation from landscapes, we change radically the water absorption capacity of soils. Other factors that cause desertification include urbanization, climate change, overuse of groundwater, deforestation, natural disasters, and tillage practices in agriculture that make soils more vulnerable to wind. If an area becomes a desert, the water quality is going to become a lot worse than it would have been otherwise. It is in topsoil where large pores and soil aggregates form, allowing for proper water infiltration and aeration. We are working hard to improve our content. Water scarcity in drylands limits the production of wood, crops, forage, and other services that ecosystems provide to our community. This is because people on the brink of famine, extreme poverty or political instability in their country need to solve the crisis at the moment and do not think about sustainable cultivation strategies. In many instances, these people go to larger cities, hoping for better life by finding a new livelihood. Be it true or not, unfavorable conditions still forced early people to leave their homes and everything they were familiar with. Desertification, in short, is when land that was of another type of biome turns into a desert biome because of changes of all sorts. By taking that critical look at desertification, we have the tools that we need in order to get through the processes effectively. However, the main reason why desertification goes widely unnoticed is that 90 percent of people affected by this phenomenon currently live in developing countries, mainly in Africa and Asia, and belong to the world’s poorest [4]. Adding dust and sand into the atmosphere is also one of the ways that desertification itself can affect the climate, says Kimutai. 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. 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. Desertification may alter the living conditions of the local flora and fauna that makes it impossible for animals and plants to sustain their populations. 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’. The use of excessive amounts of fertilizers and pesticides to maximize their crop yields in the short term often leads to significant damages for the soil. Now that we know what causes desertification, here are five of its effects – all of them are negative. Therefore, it is important to realize after reading this article how valuable soil conservation is. 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. There are many historical accounts of how various people groups throughout human history experienced collapse of their civilization as drought and desertification occurred to their lands. The future is already in place. Compared with the data from 1920s, Sahara has already expanded by 10 percent. Desertification affects topsoil, groundwater reserves, surface runoff, human, animal, and plant populations. Unable to grow crops, farmers had to leave their villages in search of better lands.

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