Wikle, Thomas A. Department of Geography, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Last reviewed:December 2019
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- Causes of desertification
- Impacts of desertification
- Geographic areas impacted by desertification
- Desertification in Africa’s Sahel region
- Measuring desertification
- Fighting desertification
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
A process by which human activities contribute to reductions in the biological productivity of semiarid lands. The term was made popular by André Aubreville’s 1949 book, Climats, forêts et desertification de l’Afrique tropicale (Climates, Forests and Desertification of Tropical Africa), in which he described desertification as productive agricultural land being transformed into desert because of human-caused soil erosion. It is a misconception that desertification involves desert conditions spreading outward from a core area. In lieu of desert lands expanding outward, Aubreville characterized lands as changing over time because of poor cultivation practices, tree cutting, and/or the indiscriminate use of fire. A more recent definition provided by the United Nations describes desertification as “land degradation in arid, semiarid and sub-humid areas resulting from various factors including climatic variation and human activities" (Fig. 1). See also: Biological productivity; Desert; Erosion
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