Desertification – Are Deserts Expanding??

Deserts are everywhere. In both Americas, Australia, the Great Saharan Desert in Africa, Middle East, India and in China. Deserts are what we understand when we mean ‘deserts’ – unpopulated barren areas as there’s of lack of enough rainfall. That’s true.

Sands, sand dunes and sandstorms are typical physical characteristics of deserts. But that doesn’t exclude Antarctica from being a desert – it’s world’s largest cold desert – desert of frozen water. The entire continent of Antarctica is covered by ice. As plants cannot absorb solid form of water but only when it is in liquid form, Antarctica is barren land of ice. Sahara and Antarctica are both deserts with 180° between them.

Are deserts expanding? News reports suggest so. Hot deserts are expanding. These are areas that receive 0 – 250 mm rainfall yearly. Rainforests receive at least 2000 mm a year. 

Deserts in the western China are expanding. The rate is enormous – up to 4 meters/year. But why? Vegetation is sparse in these areas. Oases often provide habitation for the Bedouins or nomads. People live sparsely in deserts. But as population are increasing, demands for livelihood as well.

Plants not only provide a scenic beauty, shelter or medicinal ingredients, they also lower the wind speed protecting the ground from erosion. Even micro organisms and fungi help preventing erosion. As grazing and farming are overtaking the entire ecosystem unsustainably, natural balance of a delicate system has started to respond irreversibly downgrading. 

This expansion of deserts into new areas, desertification, is extremely hard to fight. But still possible by reducing the number of factors needed to run a livelihood in these areas. 

  • Wind and solar energies can be a perfect alternative to power supply which will reduce dependence on woods for fuel and help preserving the vegetation cover. 
  • But what about cattle? It’s unrealistic to forbid people having cattle but to offer an alternative to traditional food source, possibly letting cattle to be in farms and let the animals to be used to supplied but nutritional diets. 
  • Tourism can be an alternative livelihood as more and more people like to go to deserts in their holidays recently. 

But it’s the local people who need to be integrated to such enterprise. Letting the Bedouins or locals to follow their thousands years of lifestyles will not solve the problem. When they will be integrated may be only then desert will listen the call and reverse back to its old line.

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