PT-4 :: Combating desertification

Sub-topics: climate change, soil erosion and land degradation.
Desertification has been a recognized environmental problem for decades. Many of desertification’s causes are anthropogenic (deforestation, overgrazing, poor irrigation systems, changes in population density), but the problem can also be exacerbated as severe weather events increase due to climate change. Climate change is expected to intensify the forces responsible for soil erosion, increasing the susceptibility of populations and their environments. Persistent reduction of ecosystem services as a result of desertification links land degradation to loss of human well-being. It will cause also rural abandonment and intensification of climate related problems in cities. It’s particularly important for some countries, as Portugal, and affects not only farmers but the society in general.
Up to now, there are evidences and scenarios about erosion increasing all over the world, but it would be important to improve the monitoring and evaluation of desertification, land degradation processes and sustainable practices through pilot experiments and demonstration sites. It is important to find solutions not only for restoration but also for adaptation to climate change induced desertification. The effects of desertification on economy and social impacts should be also included. This integrated knowledge can be used by land users and land managers to decide for adequate practices and by land planners to implement effective policies that address the problem of desertification under climate change. This type of research should be founded by governments.
Specific research questions (following the conceptual model of INSPIRATION):
• Identify and assess main trends and drivers of desertification.
Why: To understand the issue dimension in a world that increases by 100 million people per year.
Natural Capital:
• Identify and investigate the desertification effects, analysing economic impacts (e.g. in terms of soil ability to support current and future crops), environment issues (e.g. ecological misbalances) and social impacts (e.g. human health, migration).
Why: to support the design of adequate land management strategies in order to mitigate or to adapt to the climate change impacts.
Land management:
• Delineate and assess climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies for land management, using pilot projects;
• Developing information and monitoring system;
Why: To combat land resource degradation, ensuring its natural capital and ecosystem services.
Net impacts:
• Interpretation of research results, so they are in context and understood by decision makers, resource users and people focused on economic development,
Why: Essential step towards enhancing understanding based on research.