Desertification Effects, Causes, And Examples : Top 10 List

January 5, 2015 in Animals & Insects, Geology & Climate, Humans, Plants

Desertification is a process of land-degradation by which a region becomes progressively drier and drier — eventually becoming desert. Or, to put it another way — desertification is the process by which previously biologically productive land is transformed into wasteland.

There’s actually currently something of a debate over the use of the term though. As it stands, the most widely accepted definition is probably the one that’s now printed in the Princeton University Dictionary — which defines it thusly: “The process of fertile land transforming into desert typically as a result of deforestation, drought, or improper/inappropriate agriculture”

Desertification

There are a number of different causes/mechanisms behind the process, such as deflation (the loss of stabilizing vegetation, and of top soil); erosion; and soil-salinity-rise (via irrigation mostly). Read the rest of this entry →

Deforestation Effects, Causes, And Examples: Top 10 List

December 13, 2012 in Geology & Climate, Plants

Over half of the world’s forests have been destroyed in the last 10,000 or so years — the majority of this loss has occurred in just the last 50 years, occurring simultaneously with a massive increase in the human population. The incredible scale of this loss has led to significant changes throughout many parts of the world, and in recent years these changes have been accelerating. These changes include: large-scale extinction events, desertification, climatic changes, topsoil loss, flooding, famine, disease outbreaks, and insect ‘plagues’ — among others.

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Deforestation occurs primarily as a result of: agriculture, fuel use and production (firewood, charcoal, etc), timber harvesting, pasture-clearing for livestock animals, and expanding human settlements. And also, to a degree, due to large scale war — throughout history fire has often been used as a way to deprive enemy populations of necessary resources. These deforested areas almost inevitably end up as wastelands via the processes of soil erosion and desertification, if they aren’t reforested. Many of the areas of the world that were deforested thousands of years ago remain as severely degraded wastelands or deserts today.

Currently the world’s annual rate of deforestation is estimated to be about 13.7 million hectares a year — roughly equivalent to the total land-area of Greece. Roughly half of the areas deforested gets reforested to some degree, but these new-growth forests don’t function in the same ways, support the same biodiversity, nor do they provide the many benefits that old-growth forests do.

In addition to these ‘official’ numbers, forests have also been, in recent years, becoming more and more affected by the changing climate — with increasing levels of drought, growing numbers of forest fires, increasingly common powerful storms and extreme weather, an explosion in insect numbers, and the spread of disease, all taking a toll.

Read the rest of this entry →