What is desertification? Causes of desertification. Where does desertification take place?

Science 2023

Table of contents:

What is desertification? Causes of desertification. Where does desertification take place?
What is desertification? Causes of desertification. Where does desertification take place?

Multiple studies have long proved that the amount of fertile land on our planet is decreasing every year. According to tentative estimates of scientists, over the past century, about a quarter of the land suitable for cultivation has failed. This article will discuss what desertification is, as well as the causes of its occurrence and the impact on the global ecosystem.

what is desertification

General concept

The very concept of "desertification" has several synonyms. In particular, it is also called desertification, the Sahel syndrome and the progressive formation of deserts. This phenomenon refers to the process of land degradation that occurs in various parts of the world. The main causes of desertification that are identified by scientists are human activities and global climate change. As a result, in some areas of the planet, zones arise where environmental conditions become similar to desert ones. Every year, due to this problem, about twelve million hectares of fertile land are lost on Earth.earth. Moreover, scientists from all over the world state the constant progression of this trend.

Acknowledging the problem

For the first time, humanity realized the seriousness of the problem and started talking about what desertification was in the early seventies of the last century. The reason was a severe drought in the African natural zone of the Sahel, which led to catastrophic famine in the region. As a result, in 1977, in Nairobi (the capital of Kenya), a conference was held under the auspices of the UN, the main theme of which was to identify the main causes and measures to combat land degradation.

Desertification control measures

Main human interventions

As noted above, there are two main causes of desertification - the natural factor and human activities. While humanity cannot influence the first of them in any way, the situation can be improved in many respects due to the second. The most common activities that lead to the progressive formation of deserts are grazing, overuse and unsustainable use of arable land, and massive deforestation in the dry regions of the planet.


At the aforementioned UN conference, scientists agreed that livestock eating is the most common type of human intervention in nature, leading to desertification. In this case, the fact is implied that now, as more than thirty years ago, the number of grazing animals per unit of landarea in areas with arid climate is significantly overestimated. This leads to the fact that the vegetation cover is constantly thinning, and the soil is loosened. The result is soil erosion, deterioration of plant development conditions and land desertification.

causes of desertification

Irrational use of arable land

This factor is second in scale and perniciousness. More specifically, it consists of reducing land rest periods, as well as plowing areas located on slopes, which leads to increased soil erosion and a reduction in vegetation cover. The situation is aggravated by the uncontrolled use of pesticides, due to which soil fertilization is carried out. In addition, heavy agricultural machines working on them compact the soil, resulting in the death of useful species of living beings (for example, earthworms).


Another area of ​​human activity that leads to the emergence of the Sahel syndrome has become massive deforestation. The most common places where desertification occurs for this reason have become densely populated African areas, in which, in our time, wood is the most important energy carrier. They are also considered one of the most arid regions of our planet. The fact is that the need of local residents for wood for heating and construction, as well as the destruction of forests to increase the amount of arable land, led to the appearance of this global problem here.

land desertification

Natural factor

Besides human activities, there are also natural causes of desertification. Under the influence of wind erosion, reduction of cohesion and salinization of soils, as well as due to flushing with water, it only progresses. Among other things, progressive desert formation occurs under the influence of fluctuations in the natural amount of precipitation, when their long absence leads not only to development, but also to the beginning of this harmful process.

Impact on countries

Speaking of what desertification is, one cannot fail to note its negative impact on the economic development of many states. Some time ago, representatives of the World Bank conducted a study of one of the countries located on the territory of the Sahel natural zone. Their results showed that the decrease in the amount of natural resources was the reason for the reduction of its GDP by twenty percent. According to another source, the total annual amount of funds that the states suffering from this problem receive is about 42 billion US dollars. Another detrimental consequence of desertification has been the constant emergence of interstate conflicts due to the violation of the borders of neighboring countries by residents in search of water and food.

Influence on people

Desertification areas are characterized by a significant reduction in agricultural productivity, as well as a poor list of cultivated crops. Their ecosystem every year is less and less able to satisfy elementary human needs. Exceptthis, for the regions that were in its sphere of influence, an increase in the number of sandstorms was characteristic, the result of which was the development of eye infections, allergies and respiratory diseases among local residents.

where does desertification occur

All this, in turn, cannot but have a detrimental effect on people living not only in these areas, but also beyond. The fact is that the Sahel syndrome leads to a deterioration in the quality of drinking water, siltation of existing reservoirs, as well as increased sedimentation in lakes and rivers. Among other things, such an industry as food production is suffering. Against the backdrop of a growing world population, this could lead to hunger or malnutrition.

Ways to fight

Speaking about what desertification is, it should be noted that it is very problematic to deal with such a problem. To effectively counter the emergence of the Sahel syndrome, a whole range of measures must be taken, which includes economic, agricultural, climatic, political and social aspects.

desertification areas

One of the most promising and talked about ways to overcome this problem is to plant trees on arable land. This reduces the development of wind erosion and reduces the evaporation of moisture from the soil. In addition, there are local measures to improve this situation. Quite effective is the construction of walls of clay or stone around fields with fodder plants. At the same time, the heights in30-40 centimeters will be quite enough to delay precipitation. The most important thing is that the local population should have at least an elementary idea of ​​how to take care of these peculiar dams.

Potential problems

Summing up, we should focus on the fact that topics such as desertification, measures to combat it and ways to prevent it have recently become the main agenda of various conferences held by the UN. This is not surprising, since soil degradation has the potential to affect about one billion people on our planet, as well as a third of all currently existing agricultural land. First of all, this applies to Africa, Australia, South Asia, as well as certain regions of Southern Europe.

Popular topic