Desertification is defined as the process by which human practices cause the land to degrade in quality in arid semi arid and dry sub humid regions Arid semi arid and dry sub humid regions are climate regions characterized by a lack of water with arid being the most dry and dry sub humid the least dry out of the three The lack of moisture in these areas can lead to poor development of plant and animal life Desertification also presents the key concept of land degradation which describes any process that adversely affects the value of land reduces the productive capabilities of the land or that threatens the biodiversity and ecology of the environment threatened by degradation These two phenomena go hand in hand as desertification is often a symptom of heightened land degradation Human activities like over farming failing to practice crop rotation and overgrazing cause the nutrient content of soil in dryland ecosystems which are ecosystems characterized by a lack of moisture to degrade which in turn makes the soil loose dry and therefore infertile and un farmable Desertification is not a new phenomenon It has been around for as long as humanity has adopted an agrarian lifestyle
By looking back at cases of desertification in ancient times it becomes more clear as to what the most basic contributing factors to desertification and soil depletion are and how they can be remedied or worsened over time Looking at modern cases allows for the examination of what approaches are most effective and what measures will have to be taken in the future to ensure the security of millions of people currently suffering from the effects of desertification worldwide Much of the confusion about the nature of this phenomenon stems from the fact that land degradation and expansion of deserts does occur naturally but these events are fundamentally different from desertification The great deserts of the world were formed by natural processes over long periods of time they frequently grow and shrink independent of human activities and are naturally prevented from expanding far beyond their historic boundaries by dense borders of vegetation The main difference between this natural fluctuation in the size of large deserts and the expansion of deserts brought about by desertification is that human activities like clearing vegetation overgrazing and a host of others have both made it easier for existing desert areas to expand and have expedited the transitional periods of expansion which refer to the amount of time it takes for existing deserts to overtake their surrounding lands11
When cattle are allowed to graze extensively they eat the various sources of vegetation that holds the soil in place When this vegetation is removed it becomes easier for soil to be eroded by wind or water thus resulting in a depletion of nutrient rich soilless nutrientrich soil left over Cattle grazing also results in the compression of depleted soil As the animals graze they pack down soil with their hooves In areas where the soil has been depleted this creates dense stretches of exhausted soil which is harder to rehabilitate These problems all contribute to the onset of desertification and when they are allowed to continue desertification soon sets in and spreads Desertification is not an isolated issue Drylands represent 40 of Earth s landmass and these regions can be found on every continent except Antarctica While desertification is a major problem itself it is also fundamentally linked to other pressing issues like climate change population displacement and water scarcity
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