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Desertification

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Causes and Effects of Desertification

What Causes Desertification?

-Overgrazing
Overgrazing was not as large of a problem long ago because animals would move in response to rainfall. People would move with the animals so it prevented overgrazing in such areas. Now, humans have a steady food supply so they do not have to move about. Therefore, people use fences to keep their animals in one place which causes overgrazing. (Desertification, 2001)

-Farming of Average Land
Farming of average land is causing desertification worldwide. Farmers are clearing average land, and using it which takes away the richness in the soil. People should let the average land replenish itself before farming. (Desertification, 2005)

-Destruction of Plants in Dry Regions
Destruction of plants in dry regions is causing desertification to occur. People are cutting down tress to use them as a source of fuel. Once all these trees are cut down there is nothing to protect the soil. Therefore, it turns to dust and is blown away by the wind. (Desertification, 2005)

-Incorrect Irrigation in Arid Regions Causes a Build Up of Salt in the Soil
Incorrect irrigation is commonly used in poorer areas. Farmers are using canal irrigation and other poor techniques because of the lack of water. This type of irrigation causes a build up of salt in the soil. (Desertification, 2005)

The Effects Of Desertification

-Soil becomes less usable
The soil can be blown away by wind or washed away rain. Nutrients in the soil can be removed by wind or water. Salt can build up in the soil which makes it harder for plant growth.

-Vegetation is Lacked or Damaged
Loosened soil may bury plants or leave their roots exposed. Also, when overgrazing occurs, plant species may be lost.

-Causes Famine
Places that have war and poverty are most likely to have famine occur. Drought and poor land management contribute to famine.

-Food Loss
The soil is not suited for growing food; therefore the amount of food being made will decline. If the population is growing, this will cause economic problems and starvation.

-People near Affected Areas
Desertification can cause flooding, poor water quality, dust storms, and pollution. All of these effects can hurt people living near an affected region. (The Facts of Desertification and United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, 2000)

Case Stude: The Sahel Desert

In the Sahel Desert, desertification is becoming a huge problem. Around the 1950’s, people settled into the Sahel region, in areas where there was water. This resulted in overgrazing, which is one of the greatest causes of desertification. Eventually, the perennial shrubs were destroyed because of grazing, and they were replaced by annuals. Then, the annuals were grazed out which left bare soil. A lot of the topsoil was washed away, and all that was left were rocks. Silt turned hard when it was hit by rain. Therefore, plants were not able to grow because there roots could not penetrate this hard layer. Now this region has turned to desert and it continues to expand. (Desertification, The Sahel, 2004) Records show that rainfall in Sahel has decreased and sands have shifted about sixty miles south into the area. Sahel is expanding due to lack of vegetation in the area. (Sahel, 2005) Another reason desertification is occurring in the Sahel region is because people are using the slashing and burning method to clear land. This degrades the quality of soil just like overgrazing. (Desertification-a Threat to the Sahel, 2000)

Short Term Effects of Desertification in the Sahel:

-Soil loses its nutrients which makes it not useful
-Overgrazing destroys vegetation and without it erosion occurs
-Land becomes salty which makes it difficult to grow crops

Long Term Effects of Desertification in the Sahel:

-People die of starvation
-Cattle die of starvation
-The soil becomes completely useless
(Prospects and Problems, 2004)

desert2.jpg

(www.esa.int/esaEO/SEMIRD3VQUD_environment_1.html)

Desertification