Basic facts on desertification

Reading for Module A, p. 3.2.3

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  • Desertification occurs through land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activities.
  • Desertification is not, as commonly thought, the actual expansion of existing deserts.
  • Desertification affects nearly one billion people, or one-sixth of the world’s population.
  • Desertification is occurring in 70 per cent of all drylands, or one-quarter of the total land area of the Earth.
  • Desertification causes widespread poverty, and is responsible for much of the migration in the developing world.
  • Desertification is responsible for the degradation of 73 per cent of the world’s rangeland.
  • Each year, the planet loses 24 billion tons of topsoil. Over the last two decades, enough has been lost to cover the entire cropland of the United States.
  • Desertification is especially severe in Africa, where two-thirds of the continent is desert or drylands, and where 73 per cent of its agricultural drylands are already seriously or moderately degraded.
  • Asia contains the largest amount of land affected by desertification of any continent-just under 1,400 million hectares.
  • Nearly two-thirds of Latin America’s drylands are moderately to severely desertified.
  • Desertification costs the world more than $40 billion a year in lost productivity.

Source: Adam Rogers (ed.), Taking Action: An Environmental Guide for You and Your Community (New York: United Nations Environment Programme, 1996), p. 191 (accessible, 14 Mar. 2014, at http://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Taking_Action.html?id=0QZOu-u9HHgC&redir_esc=y)

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