A dry and dusty savannah, Emaciated cattle plodding dejectedly past the last remaining scraps of grass that have survived the merciless heat and sandstorms. Such images are all too familiar. Across the globe, soil degradation and desertification cost about 490 billion euros per year, according to expert estimates. "About 12 million hectares of land are lost to this every year" says Wageningen soil physicist Coen Ritsema of Alterra Wageningen UR. ‘That is equivalent to half the land surface of the UK.’
Desertification takes hold for a number of reasons. Soils can be damaged by water and wind erosion, salinization, overgrazing, drought and forest fires. Forest fires alone send a surface area the size of India and Pakistan up in flames every year. Sometimes the forest comes back afterwards. But if forest fires and periods of drought follow close on each other’s heels, the soils and the stock of seeds they harbour become exhausted. In the end nothing grows there anymore and the land is irretrievably lost. The international project DESIRE is studying the options for more sustainable land use under dry conditions. DESIRE stands for Desertification Mitigation and Remediation of Land.
Authors and Publishers
van Lynden, Godert
Wageningen University & Research is a collaboration between Wageningen University and the Wageningen Research foundation.
That is the mission of Wageningen University & Research. A staff of 6,500 and 10,000 students from over 100 countries work everywhere around the world in the domain of healthy food and living environment for governments and the business community-at-large.
The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa (UNCCD) is a Convention to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought through national action programs that incorporate long-term strategies supported by international cooperation and partnership arrangements.