By Joseph Akim Gordon
Desert encroachment and desertification are terms that are interchangeable and, in essence, refer to the spread of desert conditions into habitable areas. This is most often demonstrated by the movement of sand dunes. To encroach upon something means to advance past its usual or natural limits, so when we pair the words “encroachment” and “desert,” we refer to the spread of a desert into surrounding lands. Though “desert” usually conjures up an image of sand, camels, and other desert creatures, regardless of temperature, the average annual precipitation is less than 250mm (about ten inches). Deserts are surrounded by semi-arid regions, which have up to twice the annual rainfall. The boundaries of deserts have always changed over time. These changes occur naturally as the climate shifts and alter rainfall patterns. Changing vegetation patterns can also cause subtle changes in the arbitrary line defining a desert. Within the past few thousand years, however, desertification has become the most common cause of desert encroachment.
Though there are known examples of natural desertification, human activity is the most common cause. Farming, grazing, and deforestation often upset the delicate ecosystem of semi-arid regions, creating conditions that allow nearby deserts to spread, or encroach, beyond their boundaries. Let’s consider a typical desertification and desert encroachment scenario. Semi-arid regions are home to grasses that evolved in harsh environments. These plants survive on limited water because of their widespread root systems and tough stems that baffle, or slow, runoff from infrequent rainstorms. In undisturbed grasslands, the water sinks into the soil, where it can be taken up by the roots of plants. Trapped moisture returns to the atmosphere through the evaporation of water from the upper soil layers and transpiration from plant leaves. The two processes, together called evapotranspiration, raise local humidity. Higher humidity increases the frequency and quantity of rain and moderates the local climate because humid air’s temperature is harder to change than that dry air. As coastal dwellers know, water vapor acts as a temperature buffer. The vegetation and local climate in semi-arid regions have a feedback effect: good grass cover contributes to more rain, which leads to more grass. When human activity breaks, the feedback loops the local climate changes.
Poor tilling practices, for instance, remove grass and allow increased runoff, so local humidity decreases. Once water leaves the area in streams and rivers, it cannot contribute to the local weather patterns. Rainfall decreases, eventually to the point where the area becomes a desert. Overgrazing by livestock also removes grass cover and increases runoff, with similar results. Large regions surrounding the world’s great deserts have undergone desertification since the advent of farming and herding, and the phenomenon continues today in many third-world countries. Non-governmental organizations such as the Peace Corps are actively teaching farmers and herders in arid regions practices designed to prevent desertification. Human-caused desertification is not the only cause of desert encroachment. Grasslands in semi-arid regions can be destroyed by prolonged drought or natural wildfires. Overgrazing by herds of wild herbivores can also contribute. However, man’s hand is behind the great majority of desertification observed through recorded history.
Desert encroachment caused by natural or human-caused desertification is local, although certainly devastating in the long term. Parts of the Middle East, such as Syria, are hotter and more arid than two millennia ago, almost entirely as a result of desertification caused by humans. This differs from climatological predictions of global climate change, which warn of large-scale and rapid desert encroachment caused by shifting climate patterns. Based on observations of local desert encroachment caused by desertification, there is no denying that, if large-scale desert encroachment were to occur, the face of the world would be radically altered.
Desertification and desertification are the makings of humanity; we have overused natural resources. This is the wealth God gave to us free of charge. The air we are breeding free of charge, the water and other natural resources are given to us freely, we failed to care for, we misused, and we are not able to replenish. We take everything for granted. We have now been awakened from our sleep, and we are now witnessing cases of drought, flooding, and other additional disasters. We are not able to restore the natural resources that God offered to us free of charge; it is now the full responsibility of humanity to restore the status quo. We have problems because there is a tremendous increase in the human population, but with fewer resources to feed the population.
What do we need to do to combat desertification and dissertation encroachment because more and more land is becoming desert? we must begin to use our natural resources in a proper manner we need immediate urgency to start massive afforestation and restore the forests to adopt farming systems environmentally friendly reduce the numbers of grazing animals, stop polluting the environment with chemicals, and many other approaches If we fail to adhere to these rescue packages, we should not regret it when more disasters start affecting us with vigour, like drought, flooding, and many others spreading everywhere. This will limit humanity’s ability to produce crops and rare livestock for its livelihood. So let us prepare for the effects of floods, droughts, and many other calamities if we do not take seriously the negative impact of climate change caused by environmental degradation.
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