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August 25, 2016 Ecotech Gallery No Comments

The Desert

 

DESERT

Far from being barren wastelands, deserts are biologically rich habitats with a vast array of animals and plants that have adapted to the harsh conditions there. Some deserts are among the planet’s last remaining areas of total wilderness. Yet more than one billion people, one-sixth of the Earth’s population, actually live in desert regions.

Deserts cover more than one fifth of the Earth’s land, and they are found on every continent. A place that receives less than 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain per year is considered a desert. Deserts are part of a wider classification of regions called “drylands.” And despite the common conceptions of deserts as dry and hot, there are cold deserts as well. The largest hot desert in the world, northern Africa’s Sahara, reaches temperatures of up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius) during the day. But some deserts are always cold, like the Gobi desert in Asia and the desert on the continent of Antarctica. Others are mountainous. Only about 10 percent of deserts are covered by sand dunes. The driest deserts get less than half an inch (one centimeter) of precipitation each year, and that is from condensed fog not rainstoring and conserving water.

Desert animals have adapted ways to help them keep cool and use less water. Because of their very special adaptations, desert animals are extremely vulnerable to introduced predators and changes to their habitat.

 

DESERTIFICATION & CLIMATE CHANGE

“Desertification is a silent, invisible crisis that is destabilizing communities on a global scale.” – United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), 2014

‘Climatic variations’ and ‘Human activities’ can be regarded as the two main causes of desertification. Climatic variations include climate change, drought, moisture loss on a global level. Whilst human activity include overgrazing, deforestation and removal of the natural vegetation cover (by taking too much fuel wood), agricultural activities in the vulnerable ecosystems of arid and semi-arid areas, which are thus strained beyond their capacity. These activities are triggered by population growth, the impact of the market economy and poverty.

Population levels of the vulnerable drylands have a close relationship with development pressure on land by human activities which are one of the principal causes of desertification. The table below shows the population in drylands by each continent as a percentage of the global population of the continent. It reveals a high ratio especially in Africa and Asia.

There is a vicious cycle which when people live in dryland areas, they put pressure on vulnerable land by their agricultural practices and through their daily activities, and as a result, they cause further land degradation.

 

SOLUTIONS TO DESERTIFICATION

Although desertification remains as a key issue, there are alternative solutions that can help with the problem.

First and foremost education should be the primary source of solving the dire desertification matter. 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. The government should impose policies that will improve the land.

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.

Other solutions include more efficient use of existing water resources and better control salinization to improve arid lands. We can also find new ways to rotate crops to protect the fragile soil. Some countries have already implemented planting sand-fixing bushes and trees. Leguminous plants, which extract nitrogen from the air and fix it in the ground, to restore soil fertility. When venturing out in the desert the use off-road vehicles only on designated trails and roadways instead of absent mindedly driving around will also help. Whilst farming is important for human beings we must be wary of what we are doing to the land. Dig artificial grooves in the ground to retain rainfall and trap windblown seeds is an easy and careful way to help halt our effect on desertification.

 

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