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Desertification. Rachel Vincent, Adam Ali, Yuna Farah Ecosystems Ecology Spring 2014. What IS Desertification?. “Conversion of productive, arable areas to non-productive” Change in… Soil Properties Vegetation Climate Results in…

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Rachel Vincent, Adam Ali, Yuna Farah

Ecosystems Ecology

Spring 2014

What is desertification
What IS Desertification?

“Conversion of productive, arable areas to non-productive”

Change in…

Soil Properties



Results in…

Loss of ecosystem services  food security, carbon sequestration, supply of forage, fibers & wood, maintenance of biodiversity

Stress in human societies

What s the nature of desertification
What’s the Nature of Desertification?

  • Occurs mainly in arid, semi-arid and sub-humid areas

  • Drylandsare very vulnerable to changes

  • A form of land degradation

    • Reduction of biological or economic productivity of dry lands

    • Consequences = loss of soil fertility

    • Degrades dry but productive land so that it can no longer sustain life

  • Affects large dryland areas  1/3 of world population resides in drylands

  • If disturbances (climatic change or human causes) are severe enough, land productivity might not reversible

Causes of desertification
Causes of Desertification

  • Human Causes

    • Contribute the most

    • Overgrazing

    • Over-cultivation

    • Tillage

    • Irrigation

      • Inefficient irrigation

      • Over-irrigation

    • Deforestation

    • Population

      • Growth & migration

  • Climatic Causes

    • Aridification fertile regions becoming increasingly dry

    • Precipitation  limited rainfall

      • Water scarcity

    • Increases in drought

    • Anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gases

      • Affect precipitation pattern

Why is this important to people
Why is this important to people?

Increase of bare soil

General decrease in ecosystem services & productivity

Shifts in types of vegetation

What are the causes of desertification
What are the Causes of Desertification?

Poor land management

Anthropogenic forces  migration & conflicts

Climate change

Desertification has resulted in
Desertification has resulted in…

  • Agricultural declines

  • Famines

  • Loss of income

    • US loses $42 billion yearly

  • Reduction in resilience

    • Due to climactic variability

How does this problem alter the flow of energy water and nutrients throughout the system
How does this problem alter the flow of energy, water, and nutrients throughout the system?

  • Less vegetation > more erosion/ dust emissions

    • High levels of dust in the atmosphere can lead to cooling

    • Dust emissions reduce precipitation and impede plant growth

  • Less vegetation > less evapotranspiration > less precipitation recycling

  • Less vegetation > less transpiration from plants, same amount of evaporation (unproductive) and can lead to salt accumulation

How does this problem alter the flow of energy water and nutrients throughout the system1
How does this problem alter the flow of energy, water, and nutrients throughout the system?

  • Increased run-off and evaporation > less water for infiltration and transpiration

  • Loss of vegetation > change in atmospheric CO2

  • Increased albedo from vegetation loss

  • Surface temperature increase from decrease soil moisture

  • High temp/low precipitation leads to low soil organic matter

  • Soil degradation > infertile soil

How to address and remediate desertification
How to Address and Remediate Desertification nutrients throughout the system?





Identification nutrients throughout the system?


Land cover change


Soil fertility


Market efficiency

Decreasing crop yields


Increasing migration from rural to urban areas

Declining health


Declining state power

Immigration-related issues

Mitigation nutrients throughout the system?

  • “The success of biophysical remediation and mitigation measures depends on the the existence of favorable societal conditions…Local and ‘stakeholder involvement’ appear to be crucial”


Control nutrients throughout the system?

Importance of identification and monitoring

Soil, wind, water erosion control

Ex: mulching crop residues, create vegetation shelterbelts controls wind erosion

Manage grazing and livestock mobility  maintains biodiversity

Reversal nutrients throughout the system?


Improve agriculture & promote sustainability of resources

Soil erosion control

Salinity remediation

Manage grazing/livestock

Biodiversity among crops

Improve & introduce better manmade systems/management

References nutrients throughout the system?

  • Bakr, Noura, David C. Weindorf, Mohamen H. Bahnassy, Mohamend M, El-Badawi. “Multi-temporal assessment of land sensitivity to desertification in a fragile agro-ecosystem: Environmental indicators.” Ecological Indicators 15 (2012): 271-280. Print Verón, S.R., J.M. Paruelo, M. Oesterheld. “Assessing desertification.” Journal of Arid Environments 66 (2006): 752-763. Print.

  • D’Odorico, Paolo, AbinashBhattachan, Kyle F. Davis, Sujith Ravi, and Christiane W. Runyan. "Global Desertification: Drivers and Feedbacks." Advances in Water Resources 51 (2013): 326-44. Print.

  • Jiang, Zhongcheng, YanqingLian, and Xiaoqun Qin. "Rocky Desertification in Southwest China: Impacts, Causes, and Restoration." Earth-Science Reviews 132 (2014): 1-12. Print.

  • King, Caroline, and David S.g. Thomas. "Monitoring Environmental Change and Degradation in the Irrigated Oases of the Northern Sahara." Journal of Arid Environments 103 (2014): 36-45. Print.

  • Sivakumar, M.V.K. “Interactions between climate and desertification.” Agricultural and Forest Meterology 142 (2007): 143-155. Print

  • Zhao, Ha-Lin, Jin Li, Ren-Tao Liu, Rui-Lian Zhou, HaoQu, and Cheng-Chen Pan. "Effects of Desertification on Temporal and Spatial Distribution of Soil Macro-arthropods in Horqin Sandy Grassland, Inner Mongolia." Geoderma 223-225 (2014): 62-67. Print.

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