Student: Muhammad Misykat Bin Abdul Rahman
ID number: KYSIC2013-0025
Course name: Academic Writing
Course code: FNDN 001
Teacher: Miss Alison Scott
Due Date: 30 September 2013
Word count: 1130
Examine the principle causes and effects of desertification.
Desertification means degradation of land and vegetation, soil erosion and the loss of top soil and fertile land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, caused primarily by human activities and climatic variations (goodplanet.org). Desertification is important to humans as it happens in many parts of the world and has many negative implications on us. The implications have a great impact on mankind, so it is important to understand both the causes and effect of desertification.
Environment factors are one of the reasons of desertification. Firstly, drought combined with unsustainable human practices leads to desertification. During drought season, the temperature rises and there is less rainfall. This leads to the soil becoming drier and less fertile. For instance, in 1972, Sahel experienced a severe drought where crops and grass cannot grow in the marginal lands due to desertification (Cunningham, 2010, p. 16). Ultimately, less food can be grown and can lead to starvation.
Another environment factor is seasonal wind. Seasonal wind combined with unsustainable human activity leads to desertification. The seasonal wind blows away the good topsoil that becomes dry and fine due to constant ploughing and planting of crops. This will result in the formation of dust storms. For example, dust storm enveloped the Great Plains, United States for ten years as a result of desertification (Green, n.d., p. 35). Eventually, people may leave the degraded land and may migrate en mass to other areas.
Human activities are also one of the reasons of desertification. Firstly, overpopulation leads to desertification. Overpopulation strains soil of its resources such as water and nutrients to plant crops to supply food for the need of the population. In turn, the fertility of the soil will be depleted as it is overused. For example, crops and grass cannot be grown in marginal lands of Sahel in 1972 as the increased number of population had depleted its natural resources such as nutrients and water due to desertification (Cunningham, 2010, p. 16). In the end, many humans and livestock die because of starvation.
Another human activity that leads to desertification is deforestation. When trees are cut down, fertile topsoil is exposed to erosion elements such as wind and rain. The good topsoil erodes, leaving bare land which is infertile. When soil is infertile, crops and plants cannot be grown. For instance, harvests are inadequate in Khuwei Village, Sudan as the soil is infertile. This is because perennials that sheltered the soil from annual rain and maintain the soil fertility was cleared and replaced by crops (n.a., 1994, p. 30). Over time, more land need to be used to plant for crops to sustain the need of population, continuing this vicious desertification cycle.
In addition, poor farming methods also lead to desertification. Slash and burn, a traditional farming method, contributes to desertification. The good topsoil is blown away by wind as the natural forest which covers it and keeps it together is burnt. For example, the loss of soil fertility in in Brazil due to slash and burning of rain forest negatively impacted its local population (n.a., 1994, p. 31). Over time, this poor farming method leads to a lesser farming production quality, which leads to lesser quantity of harvest.
Overuse of irrigation is another poor farming method that leads to desertification. Water from rivers that flows to a natural lake is diverted to crops through irrigation. The diversion of water causes the lake to dry up. In turn, this dries the soil within its radius, making it infertile. For instance, the Aral Sea dried...
References: Cunningham, K (2010). Desertification, in Diminishing resources: Soil. Greenboro, NC: Morgan Reynolds Publishing, Chapter 4.
Desertification. GoodPlanet.org. (www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9RxnuBiFbg)
Eden Foundation. (1994). Desertification: a threat to the Sahel. Retrieved June 25, 2012 from: http://www.eden-foundation.org/project /desertif.html
Green, G. (2012). The Oklahoma Dust bowl. Fndn 001: Course resources. Wellington, NZ: VUW
Ross, D. (n.d.) How desertification works. Retrieved June 25, 2012 from http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/conservation/issues/des ertification4
Schmitt, D. and Schmitt, N. (2005). The Aral Sea: the Dying Lake, in Focus on vocabulary: Mastering the academic word list. White Plains, NY: Pearson Education. Pp 114-116.
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