Desertification Meaning

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What desertification is? Land degradation in drylands in which biological productivity is depleted due to natural methods or affected by human pursuant, resulting in fertile areas becoming increasingly dry is known as desertification. It is the spread of arid areas induced by various factors, such as climate change such as global warming and overexploitation of soil resulting from human activity. Throughout geological history, the evolution of deserts has transpired naturally. In recent times, the potential impacts of human activity, improper land management, deforestation, and weather variation on desertification are the subject of scientific research. 

Impacts of Desertification 

Around 250 million people's lives are affected by drought and desertification. Desertification has the potential to displace almost 135 million people by the end of the year 2045, thereby becoming one the most devastating natural hazards for humans. As drylands cover almost half of the ice free land surface, it has the potential of impacting many of the poorest countries in the world. 

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) records that desertification has transformed 36 million square km of land and is important international observance. According to the UNC (United Nations Convention), major policy interventions and changes in management approaches are needed to combat desertification. Such arbitrations should be performed from local to global scales, with stakeholders and local communities' active involvement and commitment.

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Causes of Desertification

Desertification is caused by several issues. Natural occurrences and human hands can provoke or spark desertification. In regions of low precipitation, like Sub-Saharan Africa, prolonged droughts that turn arid land into unfruitful, barren soil are a constant cause of desertification.

Drought alters everything, including farming opportunity, food and water security, population growth and migration. Drought exasperates poverty, which is already an upshot in many Sub-Saharan countries like Ethiopia and Senegal. Many people in these areas are inadequate to confront what causes desertification without proper formation.

Soil erosion plays a significant role in desertification. It converts the livable areas into deserts. Fifty percent of the land's productivity has decreased due to soil erosion and desertification. This explains desertification as a lead to depletion of biodiversity , degradation of the soil, and alteration in the ecosystem.

Overcultivation or overcropping is another cause of desertification. Soil nutrients drain and become bare in areas where farmers overuse and overharvest earlier arable land. In Nigeria, over-cultivation is a major issue threatening its citizens' livelihood who depend on agriculture's nearly infertile land.

The excessive amounts of manure and pesticides to maximise crop yields in the short term often leads to significant depreciation of the soil. In the long run, this may transmute the fertile land into an arid land and no longer be suitable for farming purposes since the soil becomes damaged over time. Therefore excessive use of fertilisers and pesticides are also causes of desertification. 

Overgrazing of livestock is another significant cause of desertification. Earlier farmers would graze livestock by relocating the animals nearby, but this is no longer the case. Cattle grazing in a perpetual space hinders the restoration of the plants the animals are grazing on. Overgrazing makes the soil unusable as the land is inadequate to keep up with the livestock needs. This is a significant menace in most regions, such as in central Asian rangelands, like Mongolia and Kazakhstan.

Climate change is another significant issue that plays a massive role in desertification. As the local climate is changing rapidly, many places are experiencing regular droughts, resulting in eventual desertification.

Measures to Prevent Desertification

Drought, deforestation and climate change contribute to the extreme global issue known as desertification. The result of desertification is arid land that cannot be used to produce food or crop or for other agricultural purposes. Prevention methods are needed as the process of restoring already barren and damaged lands are costly and tend to have relatively unsuccessful yield.

Firstly land and water management can be practised to prevent desertification. Sustainable practices are at the centre of the prevention measures. Overgrazing, deforestation, irrigation and other damaging soil practices need to be checked and controlled.

Secondly, protecting soil from wind and water erosion helps prevent ecosystem services loss during droughts. Another key factor is alternative farming and industrial techniques that are less demanding on local land and natural resource use, such as dryland aquaculture for fish production and industrial compounds, limit desertification. 

Lastly, establishing economic opportunities outside drylands and unpacking new opportunities for people to earn sustenance, such as urban growth and infrastructure, could reduce and stir pressures bearing the desertification methods.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Define Desertification.

Answer. Desertification is a global aspect of land degradation that decreases ecosystems’ natural potential and renders rural populations food shortage vulnerability, weather vagaries, and natural disasters. Desertification affects about two-thirds of the world’s countries and one-third of the earth’s land surface, on which one billion people reside. Desertification does not concern natural deserts and only transpire on land, which is exposed to the desertification process. Desertification results in persistent degeneration of dryland and fragile ecosystems due to human-made exercises and changes in climate. The control of desertification must develop into an integral part of the socio-economic advancement programmes, taking record of the short-term needs and long-term goals of the populations affected by it.

2. Compare and Contrast Between Droughts and Desertification.

Answer. Drought and desertification are closely related phenomena. Persevering over the years, drought can transform large areas and have severe environmental, social and economic consequences. While drought is a natural phenomenon whose outcomes can be intensified by human activities that are not accustomed to the local climate, land degradation is the process of changing fertile land into less or non-productive land. In acute cases in drylands, this is termed desertification. Land degradation and desertification are complicated aspects induced by un-adapted human activity combined with land and climatic coercion. Inappropriate use of lands such as monocultures, deforestation, unsuitable agricultural practices and overexploitation of water sources can generate land degradation that can be further exacerbated by drought.