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Prevention of desertification

Photo credit: Soils Matter

Desertification is a natural process that is associated with global climate change. With time, as the climate changes, even forests may become deserts.

WHAT IS DESERTIFICATION AND WHAT CAN BE DONE TO PREVENT IT?

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When productive land quickly loses topsoil and plant life, scientists call this desertification. It can happen in arid (dry) and semi-arid regions of the world. One-third of Earth’s land area in more than 100 countries (including the United States) is at risk of desertification.

Desertification is a natural process that is associated with global climate change. With time, as the climate changes, even forests may become deserts.

Desertification can also be brought on by improper management practices. Animals such as cattle, sheep or goats sometimes take over grasslands. This might result in overgrazing: animals harvest too much grass. Degraded rangeland conditions are the result. Without sufficient plant growth to cover the soil, wind and water erosion will occur. The historic Dust Bowl of the 1930s was a result of desertification caused by over¬grazing and excessive tillage. The worst of the Dust Bowl hit Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado, but prairie states all the way to the Canadian border as well as the Canadian Prairie Provinces were affected.

Following good farming and property management practices can prevent most desertification. One example is to keep livestock out of sensitive areas and provide livestock with alternative locations for water.

Read the full article: Soils Matter

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

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