Desertification and overgrazing


The role of overgrazing as an anthropogenic cause of desertification in the GCC countries: a comparative study of the situation in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia

by Andy S. Spiess, Fareed H. Al-Darwish

Paper presented at the International Conference on Human Impacts on Soil Quality Attributes In Arid and Semi – Arid Regions, Isfahan University of Technology, September 12-16, 2005, Isfahan, Iran.


In recent decades, land degradation in more arid regions of the world such as the Arabian Peninsula has become a serious concern. The threats, manifest as both desertification and land degradation in general, are caused primarily by anthropogenic activities, such as deforestation, excessive cultivation due to inappropriate agricultural projects, proliferation of invasive aliens, overgrazing, and other forms of land resource exploitation such as and oil and gas surveys. Inadequate irrigation practices, persecution and socio-economic changes, the latter apparent in the decline of traditional farming and land-use practices exacerbate this process severely.

Desertification should however be reviewed in the context of sustainable development, since it is directly connected to human challenges such as poverty, social and economic well-being, as well as environmental protection. Since land degradation caused by desertification processes affect the ability of the soil to sustain agricultural production, they concomitantly contribute to poverty. As population increases and demographic concentrations shift towards uncontrolled urbanization, the extent of land subject to stresses by those seeking to wrest subsistence from it has inexorably risen. Since broader environmental issues, such as climate change, biological diversity and freshwater supplies are indirectly related, any effort to resolve this environmental challenge must entail coordinated research efforts and joint action. The failure to act now will greatly compound the cost and complexity of later remedial efforts, and because environmental degradation is beginning to pose a major threat to human well-being, especially among the poor in the region.


Read the full paper:

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

%d bloggers like this: