One-third of the land surface on Earth has fallen victim to desertification - Seeker's Thoughts

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Tuesday, 9 July 2019

One-third of the land surface on Earth has fallen victim to desertification


One-third of the land surface on Earth has fallen victim to desertification and according to the estimates, another 12 million hectares which is approximately 30 million acres more to turn into barren deserts every year. 


The Impact of Desertification

The loss of fertile land to desertification has brought an end to many majestic civilizations throughout human history. 

For example - The destruction of the native tropical forest in the Indus valley opened up a pathway for the desert to claim more and more land, leading to the doom of the Harappan Civilization. 

Sadly, the very same process continues to threaten the existence of at least 1.5 billion people (mainly from developing countries) until the present day.
Desertification is slowly creeping up into our lives and had the power to change everything. Higher food prices, water availability, violent conflicts for land, migration, increasing poverty, pollution from wind-blown dust particles coming from distant lands, could be outcomes of desertification if human let it consume more of our planet.


The Global Reach of Desertification


Slightly less than half of Earth's ice-free land surface -- approximately 52 million square km (about 20 million square miles) - is drylands cover some of the poorest countries. 

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) notes that desertification has affected 36 million square km (14 million square miles) of land and is a major international concern. 
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United Nations Convention to combat desertification



 According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, the lives of 250 million people are affected by desertification, and as many as 135 million people may be displaced by desertification by 2045, making it one of the most severe environmental challenged facing humanity.



How desertification is connected with drought?


Drought and desertification are closely related phenomena. Persisting over months or years, drought can affect a large area and may have serious environmental, social and economic impacts.
While drought is a natural phenomenon, and impacts can be exacerbated by human activities that are not adapted to the local climate, and land degradation is the process of turning fertile land into less or non-productive land. 
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Inappropriate land use, such as monocultures, and unsustainable land management practice, such as deforestation, unsuitable agriculture practice, and overexploitation of water resources, can cause land degradation that can be further aggravated by drought.

Causes And Consequences of Desertification

In general, desertification is caused by variations in climate and by unsustainable land management practices in a dryland environment. By their very nature, arid and semiarid ecosystem are characterized by sparse or variable rainfall.

Thus, climate changes such as those that result in extended droughts can rapidly reduce the biological productivity of those ecosystems. Such changes may be temporary, lasting only a season, or they may persist over many years and decades. On the other hand, plants and animals are quick to take advantage of wetter periods, and productivity can rapidly increasing during these times.

Famine, poverty and political instability

While desertification certainly leads to these problems, they can also be the cause. This is because people on the brink of famine, extreme poverty or political instability in their country need to solve the crisis at the moment and do not think about sustainable cultivation strategies.

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Unfortunately, outcomes of their compromised livelihoods are often poor land use practices, such as grazing animals on eroding lands, illegal cutting of forests and unsustainable crop cultivation, which only contribute to the soil destruction beyond repair and put lives of people even more in danger.
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Vegetation is damaged or destroyed

Desertification reduces the ability of the land to support plant life. Loose soil impacts plants or exposes their roots to the sun, so they cannot fulfill their function. With plants drying already scarce rainwater gets washed away instead of being drawn into the soil, which only scales the problem as remaining pants do not have enough moisture to survive dry spells as they used to.

Additionally, if the land is used for grazing at this stage, it only results in a quicker loss of plant species and total degradation.
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Extinction of species

Extended droughts, prolonged flooding or sudden extreme changes in temperature can deplete food sources of species starvation. Species that once lived in a fertile and productive climate may not survive in the newly desertified region.

With a changing ecosystem, species must adapt to their new climate or migrate to a more favorable climate. If they fail to do so, they will become extinct for their inability to cope with a sudden change in their environment.

This is another very alarming aspect of the desertification problem because we need a biodiverse ecosystem to survive. We need an abundance of plants and animal species richness to have oxygen to breathe, clean water and drink and nutritious food to eat .

 If biodiverse ecosystem disappears, we will be left with pollution, drought, hunger and lack of resources.

How does impact on health?

These social and environmental processes are stressing the world's arable lands and pastures essential for the provision of food and water and quality air.


 Land degradation and desertification can affect human health through complex pathways. As land is degraded and in some places deserts expand, food production is reduced, water sources dry up and populations are pressured to move to more hospitable areas.

The potential impacts of desertification on health include.
- Higher threats of malnutrition from reduced food and water supplies;
- More water- and foodborne diseases that result from poor hygiene and a lack of clean water;
- Respiratory diseases caused by atmospheric dust from wind erosion and other air pollutants;
- The spread of infectious diseases as populations migrate.

Solutions for Desertification
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Policy Changes Related to How People can Farm. 

In countries where policy change will actually be enforced on those in the country, policy change related to how often people can farm and how much they can farm on certain areas could be put into place to help reduce the problems that are often associated with farming and desertification.

Policy Changes to Other Types of Land Use.
If people are using the land to get natural resources or they are developing it for people to live on, then the policies that govern them should be ones that will help the land to thrive instead of allowing them to harm the land further. The policy changes could be sweeping or they could be depending on the type of land use at hand.

Education
In developing countries, education is an incredibly important tool that needs to be utilized in order to help people to understand the best way to use the land that they are farming on. By educating them on sustainable practices, more land will be saved from becoming desert.


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Technology Advances.

In some cases, it’s difficult to try and prevent desertification from happening. In those cases, there needs to be research and advancements in technology that push the limits of what we currently know. Advancements could help us find more ways to prevent the issue from becoming epidemic.


Putting Together Rehabilitation Efforts.
There are some ways that we can go back and rehabilitate the land that we’ve already pushed into desertification; it just takes some investment of time and money. By putting these together, we can prevent the issue from becoming even more widespread in the areas that have already been affected.



Sustainable practices to prevent desertification from happening. 
There are plenty of sustainable practices that can be applied to those acts that may be causing desertification. By adding these to what we should be doing with land, we can ensure that we don’t turn the entire world into a desert.


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World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought


According to the United Nation (UN), desertification means degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas and that desertification does not refer to the expansion of existing deserts.

The World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought is being observed 5 globally on 17 June 2019. With the theme - Let's Grow the Future Together, which reflects on 25 years of progress and envisioning next 25 years.

The day is observed every year to promote public awareness about the presence of desertification and drought,  highlighting methods of preventing desertification and also about international efforts to combat desertification.
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Concern

As per the United Nation (UN), the world is losing 24 billion tons of fertile soil every year and National Domestic Product in developing countries is reduced by up to 8% annually due to dryland degradation.

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World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought

World Day to Combat Desertification and drought was proclaimed on 30 January 1995 by United Nations General Assembly's (UNGA) resolution A/RES/49/115, after the day when United Nations convention to combat desertification (UNCCD) was drafted.
In 2019, UNCCD also celebrates 25 years of progress made by countries on sustainable land management.

WDCDD is a unique occasion that serves as reminder global community that desertification can be effectively tackled and that solutions are possible with tools such as strengthening community participation and cooperation at all levels.

Conclusion

Desertification is a huge problem that needs to be addressed accordingly, and if we take the time to do it now, we can prevent other problems from happening with it in the future. By taking that critical look at desertification, we have the tools that we need in order to get through the processes effectively.














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