Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Desertification: How to stop the shifting sands


A slow news day so this is a more than a little off-topic but if you're interested in the Sahara it may be of interest.

Rapid population growth has put enormous pressure on agricultural systems that have been pushed towards unsustainable farming practices in order to cope with demand. In China livestock numbers have nearly doubled in the last 30 years, from around 200 million in the early 1970's, to 427 million in 2002.

As a result huge amount of marginal land has been taken in as pasture, overgrazed to the point of exhaustion, and now farmers are being forced to watch the topsoil literally blow away on the spring winds.

In Africa demand for water has shrunk Lake Chad by 95 percent since the 1960s, leaving only sand and scrub.

In Kazakhstan desertification has meant that nearly 50 percent of cropland has been abandoned since 1980.

The Sahara is advancing into Ghana and Nigeria at the rate of 3,510 square kilometers per year.

In Iran, fierce sandstorms are believed to have buried more than 100 villages in 2002.

But this is only expected to get worse. Across the world climate change is set to exacerbate problems where poor land use and population pressure is already putting an immense strain on finely balanced ecologies.

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