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‘Deserts Can Save Forests’
Sunday, August 18, 2013 – 15:56 – Inter Press Service
KUBUQI, China, Aug 18 (IPS) – It may take development of the deserts to save forests, say experts, who stress that desert ecology needs to be preserved and enhanced.
“When the time comes that we have to let our forests survive to retain their ecosystem services, eyes would turn for food security and livelihoods to the huge land spaces – the deserts,” Israeli ecologist Uriel N. Safriel told IPS at the Fourth International Desert Forum held in Kubuqi in China.
Dryland scientists the world over are concerned about desertification, which refers mostly to water-related loss of biological productivity in arid and semi-arid lands.
Distinct from natural deserts, in drylands potential evaporation can be 1.5 times higher than precipitation. Unsustainable dryland management practices combined with climate change contribute to man-made deserts.
Expanding at 50,000-70,000 sq km every year, 38 million sq km or about a quarter of all land globally is desertified. This includes 41 percent of cultivable land. This desertification amounts to more than 40 billion dollars in economic loss annually across 110 countries, experts say.
Affected regions are using new and more efficient technologies to make desertified land productive. Israel today is a global leader in desert control and production technologies. Only 17 percent of the country’s land is arable; the rest is desert.