January 29, 2016 Soil No Comments
Causes and Effects of Desertification

Desertification is the process by which fertile land

is transformed into desert as it becomes progressively drier and drier. This process can happen due to a number of reasons, but much of the desertification that is occurring around the world today is caused by human activity, such as deforestation or improper agricultural methods. Such desertification is having major impacts in many places on our planet today, and is expected to impact humanity even more so in the future as we experience an increase in human population, and as our planet faces increasing scarcity of natural resources such as clean water.

The following are many of the primary causes and effects of desertification in our world.

Causes of Desertification
    • Overgrazing

In arid regions, grass and other vegetation is necessary to keep the soil in place. If the vegetation is overgrazed by livestock, there is nothing that remains to prevent soil from blowing or washing away, and if this process occurs long enough, it can lead to desertification.

    • Deforestation

Forests are being cut down today to be used as fuel, for agriculture, timber harvesting, due to increasing human populations, war, and animal husbandry in dry lands. Once the trees and other vegetation in an area are gone, there is nothing left to hold the soil in place. The soil then turns to dust and can be blown and washed away, and the soil is degraded and the precious soil nutrients are lost, leaving the soil infertile and useless.
Improper irrigation methods used in arid areas, such as canal irrigation, lead to a buildup of salt in the soil and make it difficult for crops and other plants to grow, increasing desertification.

    • Overpopulation

An increase in human population demands ever more resources and expands more and more over the landscape, leading to increased desertification.
As humans continue to remove vegetation from landscapes, there is less remaining vegetation to add moisture to the soil that will evaporate into the air and form clouds that lead to rainfall. With significantly reduced rainfall, drought occurs and leads to a hotter and drier climate, and later causes desertification in the surrounding landscape.

    • Famine and poverty

While desertification certainly leads to famine and poverty, famine and poverty can also be a cause of desertification. This is because famine and poverty can lead to poor land use practices such as overgrazing and unsustainable short-term food production, and this can lead to land degradation and eventually desertification.


    • The soil becomes infertile

As desertification occurs, the soil can be blown or washed away, and valuable soil nutrients are lost. Through the use of unsustainable irrigation techniques, salt can also build up in the soil, rendering the soil useless for growing crops or other plants. As the soil dries out, it hardens and it becomes difficult for any rainfall that does occur to penetrate below the soil’s surface.

    • Vegetation is damaged or destroyed

Loose soil can bury plants, or their roots may become exposed. Overgrazing can lead to a loss in plant species.

    • Famine, poverty, and starvation

Due to drought conditions and a loss of productive land, local people can find themselves experiencing famine and poverty, as well as potentially the starvation of themselves and their livestock.

    • Disasters

Desertification can lead to natural disasters and other disasters, such as flooding, poor water quality, dust storms, and pollution, all of which can negatively impact local communities.
As land undergoes deforestation, soil erosion increases due to increased runoff and exposure to wind. The process of desertification is worsened as the soil becomes increasingly arid, and there are no more plants to hold the soil in place.

    • Collapse of civilizations

There are many historical accounts of how various people groups throughout human history experienced collapse of their civilization as desertification occurred to their local climate. These accounts include the Carthage Civilization, the Harappan Civilization, people groups in Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, and people groups in Ancient China¹.

    • Mass migration

Desertification events have been a major driver behind the migration of large human populations throughout history.

    • Extinction

Species that once lived in a more fertile and productive climate may not survive in a desertified region. With a changing ecosystem, species must adapt to their new climate, migrate to a more favorable climate, or they will go extinct.



¹ http://goo.gl/oEvZji
² http://goo.gl/KF8RJf

Written by Greentumble Editorial Team