Australia Takes Lead on Combating Desertification

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A desert outback area in Australia with a road running through it.

Abstract Aerial Art / Getty Images

Scientists at the Desert Knowledge CRC say that Australia may hold some important keys to combating desertification, which is what happens when we take more resources from the land than it can handle and turns to desert. Two sets of tools are vital in combating desertification: methods of monitoring when it is occurring, and methods for managing the effects so as to avoid land degradation to the point of desertification. It seems Australia is advancing on some interesting ways to handle both concerns.

Australia Moving Forward on Monitoring Technologies

A desert in Queensland Australia against a blue sky.

Jules Ingall / Getty Images

The Seoul Times reports:

Globally, 20,000 to 50,000 square kilometres are lost annually through land degradation, chiefly soil erosion, due to unsustainable land management and climate change. Losses in Africa, Latin America and Asia are 2-6 times higher than in the developed regions. China is experiencing severe desertification over a vast area, roughly equivalent to 35 percent of the country's territory, according to the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development.

DKCRC's Dr Mark Stafford Smith makes the point that desertification causes severe issues for humans, including conflict over resources, humanitarian crises and environmental refugees, underscoring the importance of maintaining the quality of land and soil. Australia is on target in several ways, including:
ACRIS, the Australian Collaborative Rangelands Information System, which is being looked at internationally as a model for how to monitor desertification.

Queensland has recently introduced satellite monitoring of rangeland condition, with hopes to extend to cover the whole continent.

DKCRC's WaterSmart PastoralismTM project which demonstrated practical ways that pastoralists can save both money and water using advanced technologies like telemetry.

The nation's leading study of wind erosion, the formation of a national DustWatch network to observe major soil movements in the deserts, and advice for pastoralists on how to reduce erosion risk.

Desertification Across the Globe

A desert in China with a road running through it.

lupengyu / Getty Images

China is experiencing desertification at an alarming rate - as much as 1,300 square miles each year. Sub-Saharan Africa is drying up, as are regions of Turkey that were once rich agricultural lands.

Everything from spreading hay in Iceland to planting trees south of the Sahara is being tried as ways to combat the erosion of soil and the desertification of important land. With countries like Australia - whose experience with drought and dryland ecosystems gives them a deepened understanding of the impact of disappearing resources - taking up the reins on combating this ecological breakdown, we will hopefully see progress towards finding balance and sustainability in land use.