Washington, Feb 10 (ANI): A new research has shown that 38 percent of the land surface of the world is at risk of desertification.
Scientists at the Institute of Agro Food Research and Technology (IRTA) in the US carried out the research.
By simultaneously using the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and a Geographic Information System (GIS), the researchers have shown that eight of these 15 areas can be classified as at risk of desertification, representing 38% of the land surface of the world.
The eight natural areas at risk are coastal areas, the Prairies, the Mediterranean region, the savannah, the temperate Steppes, the temperate deserts, tropical and subtropical Steppes, and the tropical and subtropical deserts.
"The greatest risk of desertification (7.6 out of 10 on a scale produced using various desertification indicators) is in the subtropical desert regions - North Africa, the countries of the Middle East, Australia, South West China and the western edge of South America," explained Montserrat Nunez, lead author and a researcher at the IRTA.
These are followed by areas such as the Mediterranean and the tropical and subtropical Steppes, both of which score 6.3 out of 10 on the scale of desertification risk.
Coastal areas and the Prairies are at a lower risk of desertification, with 4 out of 10.
"Unsustainable land use may lead to soil becoming degraded. If this happens in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid regions, such as Spain, this degradation is known as desertification, and the effects can be irreversible, because they lead to areas becoming totally unproductive," said Nunez.
In order to establish their methodology, the researchers used four biophysical variables that are the main causes of desertification - aridity, erosion, over-exploitation of aquifers and risk of fire.
"This makes it possible to satisfactorily evaluate the impact of desertification of a particular human activity, and compare the impact of the same activity in a different place, or the impact of different activities carried out in the same place," said Nunez.
The new research shows that using the LCA in combination with GIS makes it easier to adapt the LCA to study the impacts of land use, not only in the case of desertification, but also in terms of loss of biodiversity, erosion, or even water consumption.
This new methodology will provide the LCA with an environmental impact category that will make it possible to measure "the desertification potential caused by any human activity", said Nunez. (ANI)