Are our Deserts Expanding?


Deserts are characterized by their low rainfall patterns and they see less than 100 mm of rainfall every year. The lack of water causes the absence of vegetation that in turn makes these places unfit for life.

Desert expansion or desertification is the phenomenon where the semi-arid and dry lands go on to become arid. This causes losses to wildlife and vegetation and also forces the human population to retreat towards other places for sustaining their lives. The problem was not very much cared upon but after the severe desertification that saw the huge chunks of land in Australian continent into a desert the problem does seem real, so did the expansion of the Saharan desert. Concern has been raised about the expansion of Saharan desert which is expanding Southwards. This expansion is now globally accepted as a problem and measures are being taken to limit this expansion. The expansion would mean that millions of people would leave their homes and run for shelter elsewhere which is bound to create other problems because of the political factors in the region.

Causes of desertification

Desertification is a natural process. Over the period of time lands change their behavior. Deserts become fit for life, and green plains grow into unproductive lands. Deserts also expand as a result of the climatic variations and the margins where deserts meet wetlands often blur in between the different seasons. These changes however occur over a very long period of time and are not very significant when we are considering the issue here. Here we are talking about the desertification which has been a result of human activities. Lets have a look at the major causes that aggravate this desertification:

1. Unplanned agriculture and excessive firewood collection leads to the felling of trees and a great number has fallen prey to this in the Saharan regions.

2. Overgrazing is always a contributing factor when it comes to desertification. Overgrazing ensures that the soil is turned loose as the grasses keeping it together no longer are present. This leads to the rapid erosion of land, and supporting desertification. The dry winds take away the top layer of soil and the land loses its productive nutrients.

3. Talk about natural adversity, and industrialization is always a factor. With the excuse of development, people are coming to forests, felling trees in a huge amount of the creation of industries, paying no attention to the ill-effects of the process.

4. The temperatures in Australian deserts which are very far away from seas become very high, and they catch fire. These causes loss of massive amount of vegetation and the desert is slowly creeping into the adjacent areas.

5. Unlike in the Australian continent where the land is deserted because of natural factors, the Saharan expansion can be attributed to human activities which threatens to influence a major population of the continent.

Adverse effects of Desertification:

1. As the land will turn into deserts, precipitation will reduce intensifying the impact. This will result in further expansion of deserts to new areas, causing people to shift their livelihoods and will also dampen the agricultural productivity of the land.

2. Desertification leads to the development of areas that are not very suitable for life. Humans surely will migrate, but the other life forms will die, creating a loss to biodiversity.

3. The loss of natural habitats and desertification will cause a grave loss to the rural populations. They would be devoid of their livelihoods, and resources. They are not very much blessed in monetary terms, and we need to take a look at that. By desertification, we would mean the loss of their livelihoods.

Measures which can alleviate Desertification

Agriculture has been a very significant reason for desertification with people going too far to medal with the natural systems in the process.

1.We need to ensure that farmers are made aware of the benefits of sustainable agriculture. Sustainable agriculture will go on to benefit the farmers as it will bring down their expenses while growing and harvesting of their crops. And above all, it will help to make the environment safe from desertification.

2. Lack of motivation is also an issue which needs to be considered. People very often do not know the adversities they will fall into if they keep on pressurizing their lands. By guiding them to the results of their intensive methods, we can ensure that the government and local authorities come together to see through this matter.

3. There is a need to promote the act of tree plantation. Planting trees would not reverse the process of desertification but it will controlling the expansion of these deserts by holding the top layer of the soil.

4. We need to keep our industries far from these regions which are at the risk of being deserted and look towards taking measures so as to lessen the risk.

The problem of desertification is not the one that is voiced a lot, yet the issue is of grave importance. The significant part of our available land (about 40 percent) is in the form of drylands that has the potential of being deserted if right measures are not taken.

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