Desertification and it’s impact

Desertification, an intentionally foreboding term, is at its core land degradation in dryland
environments. After nearly 40 years of international attention, the analysis of the causes and
consequences of land degradation in dryland systems remains shrouded in the nuanced
complexities of multiple interwoven variables (biophysical, anthropogenic, and climatic) working
simultaneously to bring about change in these ecologically and socially vulnerable areas. In order
to fully grasp the complexities of desertification, this chapter follows a fivefold approach. First, it
provides a synthesis of the history and politicization of the term. Second, it establishes
desertification’s geospatial context. Third, it identifies the interrelated drivers of land degradation
and their impacts, with special focus placed on North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia.
Fourth, it outlines the current approaches to studying land degradation and desertification. Finally,
it concludes by situating the desertification dynamic in the context of sustainability and poverty eradication.

Introduction :-

Desertification is defined as a process of land degradation in arid, semi-arid and sub-humid areas
due to various factors including climatic variations and human activities. Or, to put it in another
way, desertification results in persistent degradation of dryland and fragile ecosystems due to
man-made activities and variations in climate.
Desertification, in short, is when land that was of another type of biome turns into a desert biome
because of changes of all sorts. A huge issue that many countries have is the fact that there are
large pockets of land that are going through a process that is known as desertification.
Overgrazing is the major cause of desertification worldwide. 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.
Desertification affects topsoil, groundwater reserves, surface runoff, human, animal, and plant
populations. Water scarcity in drylands limits the production of wood, crops, forage, and other
services that ecosystems provide to our community. 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.
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.
It is caused by a variety of factors, such as climate change and human activities. Desertification
is a significant global ecological and environmental problem.”
Through my project, we’re going to give you an idea as to what are the causes of desertification,
the effects that desertification has, and what we can do in order to deal with the problem at hand.


1. Population Growth :- The population in some desert areas is increasing. In places where
there are developments in mining and tourism, people are attracted by jobs. An increased population is putting greater pressure on the environment for resources such as wood and water.

2. Removal of wood – In developing countries, people use wood for cooking. As the population in desert areas increases, there is a greater need for fuel wood. When the land is cleared of trees, the roots of the trees no longer hold the soil together so it is more vulnerable to soil erosion.

3.Overgrazing – An increasing population results in larger desert areas being farmed. Sheep, cattle and goats are overgrazing the vegetation. This leaves the soil exposed to.

4. Soil erosion – This is made worse by
overgrazing and the removal of wood.
Population growth is the primary cause for soil erosion.

5. Deforestation-When people are looking to move into an area, or they need trees in order to make houses and do other tasks, then they are contributing to the problems related to desertification. Without the plants (especially the trees) around, the rest of the biome cannot thrive.

6. Climate change – The global climate is getting warmer. In desert regions conditions are not only getting warmer but drier too. On average there is less rain now in desert regions than there was 50 years ago.

7. Over drafting of groundwater- Groundwater is the freshwater found underground and also one of the largest water sources. Over drafting is the process in which groundwater is extracted in excess of the equilibrium yield of the aquifer that is pumping or theexcessive pulling up of groundwater from underground aquifers. Its depletion causes desertification.

Devastating Effects of Desertification

1. Farming becomes next to impossible-If an area becomes a desert, then it’s almost impossible to grow substantial crops there without special technologies. 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.

2. Decrease in Crop Yields-A major effect of desertification is the decrease in crop yields. Once land turns from arable to arid, it is often on longer suitable for farming purposes anymore. If their land becomes arid, they may no longer be able to provide sufficient crop yields to make a living out of it.

3. Flooding- Without plant life in an area, flooding is a lot more imminent. 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. Flooding can also negatively affect the water supply, which we will discuss next.

4. Poor Water Quality-If an area becomes a desert, the water quality is going to become a lot worse than it would have been otherwise. 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.

5. Biodiversity Loss- In general, the destruction of habitats and desertification may also
contribute to a loss of biodiversity. While some species may be able to adjust to the
altered environmental conditions properly, many species will not be able to do so and may suffer from serious declines in population.

6. Destruction of Habitats-Desertification often leads to a loss of habitats for many
animals and plants. Desertification may alter the living conditions of the local flora and fauna that makes it impossible for animals and plants to sustain their populations.

7. Overpopulation-When areas start to become desert, animals and people will go to other areas where they can actually thrive. This causes crowding and overpopulation, which
will, in the long run, end up continuing the cycle of desertification that started this whole thing anyway.

Desertification Is Increasing Because of Global Warming :-

Desertification is a phenomenon that is increasingly understood by scientists. While high
temperatures and droughts prevent plants from growing, arid soils aren’t as good at retaining
water. Human activity (agricultural overexploitation, soil artificialization, deforestation)
contributes to this phenomenon by destroying the environment.
It also leads to biodiversity losses locally, which further accelerates desertification -a positive
(though negative) feedback loop. Desertification also causes the carbon stored in the soil and
plants to be released, which in turn contributes to global warming. These vicious circles are now
well-identified in the scientific community and they are increasingly taking place across the
But recent studies give us a more precise idea of the speed and extent of these desertification caused changes and how they’re related to global warming. According to a study published in
early January 2018, global warming is helping to accelerate desertification and between 24% and
32% of the globe’s land area could be affected by 2050.

Soil Hydrology of Desertification and Rehabilitation :-

Desertification dramatically alters the hydrology of the degraded soil surfaces. Decertified surfaces are either rocky surfaces or exposed crusted soils with very low water infiltration capacity; water immediately runs off at high speed, causing further soil erosion. Remaining humidity in exposed soils rapidly evaporates in the intensive sunlight, so that resulting biological productivity is a fraction of that of restored ecosystems. In intact or restored ecosystems, large amounts of water can infiltrate through layers of plant litter into rich topsoil, whereby decomposing litter releases the nutrients required for vigorous plant growth Shade provided by perennial plants and plant litter layers also reduces soil surface temperatures and, consequently, evaporation, so that most precipitation becomes available to plants, resulting in water use efficiency.

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