40 percent of global land in danger of desertification

February 10th, 2010 - 4:02 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Feb 10 (IANS) Nearly 40 percent of the global land surface is at risk of desertification, a new study says. The areas at risk represent eight of the 15 natural ‘eco-regions,’ coded according to their degree of aridity.
“Unsustainable land use may lead to the soil becoming degraded. If this happens in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid regions, such as Spain, this degradation is known as desertification, and the effects can be irreversible, because they lead to areas becoming totally unproductive,” says Montserrat Núnez, who led the study at the Institute of Agro Food Research and Technology (IRTA), Spain.

The eight natural areas at risk are coastal areas, the Prairies, the Mediterranean region, the savannah, the temperate Steppes, the temperate deserts, tropical and subtropical Steppes, and the tropical and subtropical deserts.

“The greatest risk of desertification is in the subtropical desert regions - North Africa, the countries of the Middle East, Australia, South West China and the western edge of South America,” explains Núnez.

These are followed by areas such as the Mediterranean and the tropical and subtropical Steppes. Coastal areas and the Prairies are at a lower risk of desertification.

Núnez collaborated with scientists from the Autonomous University of Barcelona and the National Technological University in Mendoza, Argentina.

His methodology will provide an assessment that will make it possible to measure “the desertification potential caused by any human activity,” adds Núnez, according to a release.

The research was published in the latest issue of the International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment.

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