Desertification - Durham University

Desertification - Durham University

Desertification Issue since the 70s Basis of UN conference in 1977 (UNCOD) Aim to eradicate it by 2000!! Since viewed as one of most pressing issues affecting human kind Desertification Land degradation in arid, semi-arid

and dry sub-humid areas, resulting from various factors including climatic variability and human activities UNEP 1992 Desertification An acute process that occurs at rates several orders of magnitude faster than purely climatically driven land

responses. Thornes, 1996 Land terrestrial bio-productive system that comprises the soil, vegetation, other biota and ecological and hydrological processes that operate within the system

Land Degradation reduction or loss of the biological or economic productivity caused by land use change, from a physical process, or a combination of the two Problems

Adopting a definition Taken 20 years Human influence Conditions Cause

Processes Causes Triggered by changes in climate and socio-economic boundary conditions of dryland systems Enters +ve feedback of over exploitation of the land Results in land degradation and disruption of local economies

Dryland characteristics High incident radiation

high seasonal temperature variations low humidity strong winds intense and sporadic rainfall i.e. a delicate hydrological balance Triggers

Overgrazing deforestation precarious agriculture uncertain rainfall river flooding

depletion of surface water depletion of ground water That is: Anything that unbalances dryland systems In the long term Includes expansion of settlement at the cost of cultivatable land

Extent Determined by: rainfall patterns soil morphology

soil pedology vegetation land use Water A main limiting factor re production and settlement A fundamental cause of Desn Areas have potential for water development

lack integrated water management policy Areas of research Assess the nature and extent of the problem Identify physical processes Identify remedial actions Investigate the reln to other environmental problems

The human dimension The Human Dimension Scientists seen in a -ve light because of: 1) Speed of research relative to societal problems 2) Nature of scientific findings 3) Manner in which scientific research develops

Science and Society No instant solutions Time periods Reln between drought and desertification Nature of findings

Desn complex and multifaceted Diversity of drylands Solutions non transferable Scientists viewed as not doing anything Nature of Research

Findings not definite and final iterative development new sources of data, new technology, more research results in paradigm shift Scientists Role

Establish and retain clarity Monitoring Understand scales System recovery Solutions Need involvement of everybody farmers, pastoralists, national resource

users, international, governments etc Traditional science not producing results Need community action and indigenous knowledge Namibia 824 000 km2 Driest country of Sahel

34% arid, 58% semi-arid, 8% subhumid 1.6 million popn No perennial rivers 47% land owned by white, commercial farmers 48% communal farmers, 90% of popn SDP - Summer Desertification Programme use of natural resources, changes, solutions

CBNRM - Sustainable Animal and Range Development Programme livestock and communal farming NAPCOD - Namibian Programme to Combat Desertification Ministries, NGO, community workshops All fairly successful

All had community participation and local knowledge Constrained at national level Need overall planning. Policy and legislative framework Europe Tertiary - climate transition to summer drought Evolved under stress of changing

geological and climatic conditions Holocene - consolidated dry periods N-S aridity gradient getting steeper last 5000 years

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