“When soils lose moisture, freshwater reserves, groundwater tables, and river flows gradually dry up, too, leading to a further decline in biodiversity and overexploitation of deep groundwater.”
Desertification – defined by the UN as land degradation in arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid areas – is happening to circa two-thirds of the world’s grasslands. It exhausts the natural potential of ecosystems, reduces their agricultural yields, and renders them less predictable. Moreover, desertification threatens livelihoods and causes food insecurity, which drives people to develop survival strategies that exacerbate the very same land degradation and poverty.
By destroying ecosystems and habitats, desertification also threatens animal and plant biodiversity. When soils lose moisture, freshwater reserves, groundwater tables, and river flows gradually dry up, too, leading to a further decline in biodiversity and overexploitation of deep groundwater.
Additionally, desertification aggravates global warming. As soils deteriorate and vegetation dies, they release the carbon they previously stored into the atmosphere, boosting the greenhouse effect. In its special report on Climate Change and Land, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) explains that the extent of areas in which dryness (rather than temperature) controls CO2sequestration abilities increased by 6% in half a century and is projected to grow by at another 8% by 2050.
Livestock has long taken the blame for creating these drylands as cattle, sheep, and goats overgraze, leaving the ground bare and releasing methane in the process. But what if they could help regenerate grasslands?