Land Degradation and Desertification: Assessment, Mitigation and Remediation (Book)

Pandi Zdruli, Marcello Pagliai, Selim Kapur, Angel Faz Cano 

Published in 2010


From the Table of Contents: Introduction — Background papers — Land degradationand mitigation in Africa — Algeria — Ethiopia — Kenya — Morocco — Nigeria — South Africa — Suda — Tunisia — Uganda — Land degradation and mitigation in asia — China — India — Indonesia — Iran — Kazakhstan — Kuwait — LAO PDR — Lebanon — Malaysia — Thailand — Turkey — Yemen — Land degradation and mitigation in Europe — Albania — Austria — Czech Republic — Greece — Italy — Poland — Romania — Spain — United Kingdom — Land degradation and mitigation in the Americas — Argentina — Bolivia — Brazil — Canada — Mexico — USA — Subject Index.


The book reports research results in sustainable land management and land degradation status and mitigation in 36 countries around the world. It includes background papers with continental and international perspectives dealing with land degradation and desertification studies. The book assembles various topics of interest for a large audience. They include carbon sequestration and stocks, modern techniques to trace the trends of land degradation, traditional and modern approaches of resource-base conservation, soil fertility management, reforestation, rangeland rehabilitation, land use planning, GIS techniques in desertification risk cartography, participatory ecosystem management, policy analyses and possible plans for action. Various climatic domains in Africa, Asia, Europe and The Americas are covered. The book will be of interest to a variety of environmental scientists, agronomists, national and international policy makers and a number of organizations dealing with sustainable management of natural resources.

FAO restates commitment to curbing soil erosion

December 13, 2019

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has revealed that it is throwing its full weight behind Nigeria in the face of environmental challenges in nthe country.

It says that it will extend technical support to mitigate soil erosion and environmental degradation risks across the country.

FAO’s Representative in Nigeria, Suffyan Koroma, reiterated the agency’s will at the ‘Experts Dialogue’ organized by the Nigeria Institute of Soil Science (NISS) in partnership with the FAO and the Soil Science Society of Nigeria, to commemorate the World Soil Day recently. 

According to Koroma, the FAO is committed to working with the government and private organizations to curb land degradation, promote soil conservation, improve soil fertility and productivity and promote food security.

He identified that Nigeria had the highest rate of deforestation of primary forest in Africa with annual losses estimated at 11.1 per cent.

He also noted that desertification in northern Nigeria was consistently advancing at the rate of 0.6 kilometers per annum, with as much as 351,000 square kilometers regarded as potential desertification.

In his words: “To reduce erosion rates on farmlands, reliable and proven soil conservation technologies must be adopted and these include ridge planting, no-till cultivation, crop rotation, mulches, living mulches, agro-forestry, terracing, contour planting, cover cropping and installation of windbreaks.”

Against this backdrop, Koroma revealed that the FAO had reinforced its effort and commitment alongside NISS to protect Nigeria’s soil, increase agricultural production and ensure a secured future for the coming generation.

He further entreated all organisations to work together in effecting soil erosion management and control in future project plans with a specific budget line, adding that there is a need to ensure that people have safe and nutritious food without endangering essential ecosystem services.

Azerbaijan’s tree planting campaign highlighted on website of UN Convention to Combat Desertification

BAKU, Azerbaijan, Dec. 12
By Leman Zeynalova – Trend:

In an unprecedented public action for a greener future, 650,000 trees have been planted across Azerbaijan on 6 December 2019, Trend reports citing a material published on the website of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification.

“This environmental campaign took place at the initiative of Azerbaijan’s First Vice-President Mehriban Aliyeva to mark the 650th anniversary of the great Azerbaijani poet and thinker Imadaddin Nasimi.
A map identifying the planting locations, most of them along highways, has been prepared by the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources. The trees for planting have been cultivated in the sapling fields of Azerbaijan Greenery and Landscape Structure and Forestry Center of the Ministry,” reads the material.

“The planted trees have the potential to reduce CO2 emissions by 2,600 cubic meters per year, a significant contribution to the climate action, combating desertification and land degradation at scale. A number of government officials, representatives of the diplomatic corps, public figures and representatives of civil society have joined the planting campaign”

This many trees were planted in one day for the first time in Azerbaijan’s history.

All seedlings, namely, Khan’s plane tree, Eldar pine, cypress, acacia, ash tree, elm tree, poplar, alder, willow, oleaster, wild pistachio, catalpa, olive tree, fig tree, peach tree, plum tree, apple tree, pomegranate tree, lime tree, plane tree, catalpa and others were grown in 17 hatcheries of the forestry centers and Gardening and landscape design of Azerbaijan OJSC.

This campaign will help increase the number of trees in the country and reduce the impact of climate change.

At the same time, this is a valuable contribution aimed at uniting people around the initiative, showing the public solidarity in improving the environment.

Displaced by the desert: an expanding Sahara leaves broken families and violence in its wake

“As time went by, the land became useless and we found ourselves having no more land to work on. Nothing would come out that could feed us, and our livestock kept dying due the lack of water and grass to eat,” Abdoulaye recalls.

Roughly 40 per cent of the world’s degraded land is found in areas with the highest incidence of poverty and directly impacts the health and livelihoods of an estimated 1.5 billion people, according to the UN.

Equal Times
By Issa Sikiti da Silva
13 December 2019

Abdoulaye Maïga proudly displays an album showing photos of him and his family during happier times when they all lived together in their home in northern Mali. Today, these memories seem distant and painful.

“We lived happily as a big family before the war and ate and drank as much as we could by growing crops and raising livestock,” he says. “Then the war broke out and our lives changed forever, pushing us southwards, finally settling in the region of Mopti. Then we went back home in 2013 when the situation stabilised,” Abdoulaye explains.

In 2012, various groups of Tuareg rebels grouped together to form and administer a new northern state called Azawad. The civil strife that resulted drove many from their homes, with communities often fleeing with their livestock, only to compete for scarce natural resources in vulnerable host communities, according to the United Nations.

After the security situation began to improve in 2013, many returned home to rebuild their lives and livelihoods. But soon it was the turn of the expanding Sahara Desert, drought and land degradation that became the next driver of their displacement.

“Drought across the Sahel region, followed by conflict in northern Mali, caused a major slump in the country’s agricultural production, reducing household assets and leaving many of Mali’s poor even more vulnerable,” says the FAO.

“We used to move up and down with our livestock, looking for water and grass, but most of the times we found none. Life was unliveable. The Sahara is coming down, very fast,” Abdoulaye says emotionally.

In the end, the Maïga family had to leave their home and broke up; Abdoulaye and his brother Ousmane heading to Benin’s commercial capital Cotonou in 2015, after a brief stint in Burkina Faso, as the rest of their family headed for Mali’s capital, Bamako.

Creeping desertification

The UN says nearly 98 per cent of Mali is threatened with creeping desertification, as a result of nature and human activity. Besides, the Sahara Desert keeps expanding southward at a rate of 48 kilometres a year, further degrading the land and eradicating the already scarce livelihoods of populations, according to the Reuters news agency.

The Sahara, an area of 3.5 million square miles, is the largest ‘hot’ desert in the world and home to some 70 species of mammals, 90 species of resident birds and 100 species of reptiles. And it is expanding: its size is registered at 10 per cent larger than a century ago, LiveScience has reported.

The Sahel, the area between the Sahara in the north and the Sudanian Savanna in the south, is the region where temperatures are rising faster than anywhere else on Earth.

The cost of land degradation is currently estimated at about US$490 billion per year, much higher than the cost of action to prevent it, according to studies by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) on the economics of land desertification, land degradation and drought.


Farming Degrades Land; Farming Can Also Bring It Back

Agroforestry—the practice of growing trees intermixed with crops or livestock—can fight erosion and restore nutrients

Scientific American – By Nigel Sizer on December 12, 201

Conventional farming can be hard on land: clearing forest for crops, excessive tilling and continuous cultivation all cause the earth to lose fertility, productivity and the ability to retain water—all of which endangers crops and therefore farmer incomes. Degraded land is a worldwide crisis: The FAO estimates that a quarter of the world’s land is highly degraded or in danger of becoming so. In Africa, where 80 percent of farms are small plots of about five acres or less, 65 percent of arable land is degraded. In economic terms, the effects of land degradation are equivalent to $6.3 trillion a year of impaired ecosystem function—increased costs for fertilizers or money spent on irrigation equipment, for example. 

How can we revitalize degraded land? Agroforestry, the practice of growing trees with crops or livestock, provides one elegant solution. The benefits of agroforestry are numerous: tree roots anchor soil, preventing erosion; leaves and pruned branches from the trees become a mulch that reduces soil runoff and erosion, eventually decomposing into an organic litter layer that enriches soil. And many trees species used in agroforestry are nitrogen-fixing, replenishing this key nutrient to the soil. Finally, soils rich in organic matter hold more water, which permits more and healthier plants. These remarkable changes brought about by the inclusion of trees—improvements in ecosystem services like water retention, soil fertility, and reduced erosion—are key to restoring a landscape to productivity.       

Not only can agroforestry help address the land degradation crisis, it can also help answer the call for natural climate solutions. Trees on farms sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, just as forest trees do. While forest restoration as a natural climate solution has been much in the news lately, many policy makers still see it as a threat to food production (one need only look to Brazil to understand the challenges associated with balancing forest and agricultural lands). With agroforestry, we find a compromise between farms and forests that supports food and livelihood needs while addressing land degradation and climate goals.


Bryophytes and the symbiotic microorganisms, the pioneers of vegetation restoration in karst rocky desertification areas in southwestern China


10 December 2019

Wei CaoYuanxin XiongDegang ZhaoHongying Tan & Jiaojiao Qu 

Appl Microbiol Biotechnol (2019)



In karst rocky desertification areas, bryophytes coexist with algae, bacteria, and fungi on exposed calcareous rocks to form a bryophyte crust, which plays an irreplaceable role in the restoration of karst degraded ecosystems. We investigated the biodiversity of crust bryophytes in karst rocky desertification areas from Guizhou Province, China. A total of 145 species in 22 families and 56 genera were identified. According to frequency and coverage, seven candidate dominant mosses were screened out, and five drought-resistant indexes of them were measured. Hypnum leptothallumRacopilum cuspidigerum, and Hyophila involuta have high drought adaptability. We explored the interactions between two dominant mosses (H. leptothallumH. involuta) and the structure of microbial communities in three karst rocky desertification types. Microbial diversity and function analysis showed that both moss species and karst rocky desertification types affect microbial communities. Moss species much more strongly affected the diversity and changed the community composition of these microbial groups. Bacteria were more sensitive in the microbiome as their communities changed strongly between mosses and drought resistance factors. Moreover, several species of fungi and bacteria could be significantly associated with three drought-resistant indexes: Pro (free proline content), SOD (superoxide dismutase activity), and POD (peroxidase activity), which were closely related to the drought adaptability of mosses. Our results enforced the potential role of moss-associated microbes that are important components involved in the related biological processes when bryophytes adapted to arid habitats, or as one kind of promoters in the distribution pattern of early mosses succession in karst rocky desertification areas.

Isfahan Finding Solutions in Wastewater Systems

Isfahan is the second biggest industrial hub in the country and 70% of Iran’s steel is manufactured in this province, which explains why tapping into unconventional water resources has become a major compulsion

December 10, 2019

Close to 172 million cubic meters of wastewater is recycled in Isfahan Province every year, head of the provincial water company said.

“The need to treat and reuse wastewater is crucial to cope with the worsening water crisis,” Hashem Amini was quoted as saying by Energy Newcomes, a domestic privately-owned media group.

He noted that of the total annual output (172 mcm), 60% or 100 mcm is used for farming and the rest for industries, watering green spaces, maintaining watersheds and developing anti-desertification programs.

After Yazd, Isfahan is the second biggest industrial hub in the country and 70% of Iran’s steel is manufactured in this province, which explains why tapping into unconventional water resources has become a major compulsion.