Desertification is the final stage in the decimation of terrestrial Photosynthesis. The process often starts with various forms of defoliation; continues with deforestation; the growing of unsuitable crops; the gradual loss of soil fertility; followed by soil erosion, and ends with desertification i.e. the loss of soil as a medium for Photosynthesis. Whilst this section focuses on the destruction of topsoil, a later section examines the destruction of Photosynthetic Bacteria in the soil itself.
The importance of topsoil is as a habitat for a wide variety of life-forms and a medium in which Phytomass can flourish - although, as is clear from the amazon Rainforests, thick layers of soil are not a prerequisite for Photosynthetic profusion. Topsoil is a vital part of the Earth’s life-sustaining resources, "Topsoil - our greatest asset - is a fragile thing; a barely understood microcosm of minerals and substrate and humus and microbes. It is the slow creation of millenia." It consists of a vast array of Micro-organisms, Fungi, and Animals, contributing to the soil’s fertility, “No cubic centimetre of the soil and sediment beneath is without its billions of microscopic organisms: the top soil has its Photosynthesizing bacteria and nitrogen fixing microbes often attached to the roots of plants; its fungi, stones, moulds and teeming invertebrate life.”
All over the world, huge amounts of topsoil are being destroyed, dissipated, or suffocated, by a wide range of ooman activities; the poisoning of the soil by pollution; over-intensive cultivation; prairie pharming leaving the land vulnerable to wind/water erosion; poor irrigation leading to waterlogging and salinization; the suffocation of the soil through urbanization and the creation of rubbish/mining dumps, etc. There are various paths to desertification. The following sections attempt to enumerate these paths.
It has just been pointed that desertification is often the final stage in a long process of change from defoliation to deforestation to soil erosion. There are times, however, deforestation leads directly to desertification. Peter bunyard has argued ... “when forest is cleared, the contrast between day and night temperatures becomes more extreme, so leading to gustier winds that dry out soils and send dust swirling into the air.”; “In the sahel - those arid lands between the sahara desert and the lush Rainforest of equatorial africa - rainfall has diminished by 15% since the mid-1960s .. Robert mann .. is convinced that the drying out of west africa is a consequence of the massive deforestation - primarily the result of commercial logging and the subsequent use of Forest land for agriculture - that has occurred at an accelerating speed over the past century. He points out that, because the air has become drier, midday temperatures that used to peak at 35C are now rising to as much as 65C. The greater contrast between the temperatures of day and night brings about stronger wind currents so that the vegetation-sparse, dried out soil begins to get swept upwards into the atmosphere as dust. High altitude dust alters the energy budget of the atmosphere both by reflecting sunlight back into space and acting as a greenhouse blanket.”
For the role played by droughts in drying out lakes and rivers see section 1.9.4: Dessication.
220.127.116.11: Desertification breeds Desertification.
Whilst in the past the climate has been primarily responsible for droughts, in the modern world, oomans are increasingly responsible for such phenomena. In some cases, desertification breeds desertification, “The drought in africa is not a short term cycle, it is part of a long term human induced trend of increasing aridity and it cannot be arrested until a considerable proportion of the Tree cover which has been removed right across africa over the past 150 years is replaced.”
18.104.22.168: Droughts by Country/Continent.
“In China, during Mao Zedong’s Great leap Forward, a staggering 14-26 million died of starvation between 1959 and 1961. This, the greatest famine in modern history, was triggered by an attempt to transform agriculture into non-viable rural industries ...”
"In many areas of the western Sahel, the regional spread of desertification can be best appreciated by reviewing past and recent orbital photography. A monitoring program for Sahelian drought environments has been in operation for several years at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center guided by the work of Tucker, Holben, Justice and Townshend. Weekly vegetation indices for the Sahel are composed from Polar Orbiter data sets representing the collection of images during several orbital passes over the region."
United States of America.
“The worst drought ever recorded in north america struck the great plains in the 1930s. For the best part of five years the prairies were seized by hot dry winds and very little rain. Droughts strike there about every twenty to twenty five years, but when the pioneers ploughed into the prairies they created their own disaster. They tore up prairie grasses and slaughtered the bison into extinction. To begin with the bonanza harvests looked like a dream come true. The drought started in 1930, but then an intense hot wind in 1932 picked up the soil into dust clouds so thick they blotted out the sun for days and weeks on end. In may 1934, a cloud of dust stretched from alberta in canada to texas, suffocating birds in the sky and dusting ships at sea 300 miles off the eastern coast. By 1935 some 850 million tons of top soil had blown away. (Measures were taken to stop this from happening again). But the lessons of the dust bowl are becoming lost.”
“Droughts in west africa over the past 20 years may have been caused by the destruction of rainforests in countries such as nigeria, ghana, and cote d’ivoire, according to a new study. Further deforestation in the region “could cause the complete collapse of the west african monsoon”, says xinyu zheng at mit. West african coastal rainforests, which receive copious amounts of rain from winds coming off the atlantic ocean, have helped to maintain rainfall in the drier lands of the interior. At the beginning of this century, the west african forests covered around 500,000 square kilometres. Since then, up to 90% have disappeared to make way for farms and other kinds of human activity such as mining.”
1.8.3: Pollution Damaged Soil.
An earlier section mentioned that pollution damages the Earth’s Phytomass but it also damages the soil preventing it from carrying out any further Photosynthesis.
22.214.171.124: Stratospheric Ozone Depletion.
The damage that ooman-made chemicals are causing to the stratospheric ozone layer allows more ultra-violet radiation to reach the Earth’s surface. It has been suggested this might damage the soil. However, at the moment, there is no evidence that this is the case.
126.96.36.199: The Poisoning caused by Oil Spills.
The spilling of oil on land, whether accidental or deliberate, poisons the soil. Clean up operations remove as much oil as possible but often much of it seeps into, and poisons, the soil. For the reduction in Photosynthesis caused by oil spills suffocating the soil see section below.
188.8.131.52: Acid Rain.
Peter montague has stated, “Acid rain does not just affect trees: it also affects the soil and thus the entire ecosystem. Soil contains a large amounts of aluminium silicates. Acid rain dissolves the silicates, thereby releasing the aluminium which is taken up by plant roots. The roots then clog, preventing the plant from taking up adequate nutrients and water. Trees are weakened, and they may then fall prey to extreme cold, or to insects or pathogens. Acid rain also releases and washes away other minerals - such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus - leaving the soil depleted of nutrients. Acid rain kills off portions of the detritus food chain - all the microscopic creatures that ‘compost’ leaves, twigs, pine needles, and dead branches into the soil. Because the detritus food chain is damaged by acid rain, forest ‘litter’ builds up on the floor of the forest and prevents new saplings from taking root. Furthermore, the litter promotes the growth of fern, which gives off substances that inhibit the growth of red spruce saplings, among others.”
184.108.40.206: Scorched Earth Incineration.
“On a farm outside edenton, u.s.a. there’s a curious patch of dead Earth where nothing grows - not soybeans, not peanuts, not even weeds. Years ago a farmer torched some old tires and the burning rubber released enough zinc to poison a large field. The once fertile soil was left barren as a moonscape. Sterilized for centuries.”
220.127.116.11: The Poisoning of Soils by Toxic Waste Dumps and Mining Wastes.
The creation of waste/rubbish dumps often leads to toxins leeching through the soil. Mining invariably leads to the dumping of huge quantities of waste material some of which may contain poisons which leak into the soil, “By moving things around we do a lot of damage. We overstress the Earth’s capacity safely to absorb the thousands of millions of tonnes that we return as waste or overburden. The avalanches of matter may turn out to be the greatest threat to the global environment.” The processing of ores results in further slag heaps which release yet more toxins into the soil. If processing involves the use of toxic chemicals to extract the desired resource these too end up on the waste heap and seep into the soil. For the reduction in Photosynthesis caused by waste dumps suffocating the soil see section below.
18.104.22.168: Poisoning Soils with Factory Pharm Manure.
The intensive, factory pharm, livestock industry generates vast quantities of manure which has to be stored in lagoons before being sprayed on the land as fertilizer. The soil is poisoned by manure either when lagoons overflow or by excessive spraying of manure on fields. The poisons dumped into manure lagoons also end up being sprayed onto the land.
22.214.171.124.1: The Composition of Manure Lagoons.
Nitrogen and Phosphorous.
Organic and Mineral Nitrogen.
The Bacteria in lagoons break down manure releasing ammonia into the atmosphere - thus causing acid rain.
Metals in Livestock Feed - Zinc and Copper.
Some of the chemicals added to livestock feed to boost livestock growth are not digested but end up in manure lagoons, “Zinc and copper, two metals that are added to Swine and Poultry feeds, are turning up in increasing amounts in the soils of the state’s major livestock producing counties .. In small doses, these metals are vital nutrients for plants; at high level they become toxic. And once a field becomes contaminated, it is virtually impossible to undo the damage. The data shows that levels of copper and zinc are rising by as much as 10% a year in counties (in the u.s.) where Animal waste is being applied to land in large volumes.”; “Because Pigs cannot digest all the nutrients, their manure is rich in nitrogen and phosphorus and laced with heavy metals such as copper and zinc, which poison the soil when they accumulate.” In the e.c. the levels of zinc and copper added to Pig feeds is now limited by legislation.
Manure lagoons give off nauseating odours attracting Flies, “Flies are drawn from miles away, swarming and breeding in a 2 mile radius around waste lagoons.” Lagoons have to be treated regularly with insecticides to prevent Fly swarms. These insecticides get mixed up with the manure and end up being sprayed on the land.
Viruses and Diseases.
Manure contains a wide range of diseases, “Wastes from big Pig farms also threaten well water and surface water with parasites, bacteria and viruses. These include streptococcus, giardia, salmonella, listeria, and chlamydia, along with avian botulism and cholera, which kill thousands of migratory water fowl.”
Livestock are given a wide range of medicines and hormone growth boosters, “A factory Pig’s grain-based diet is heavy in protein and additives designed to pack on muscle as fast as possible.” Once again, what goes in has got to come out.
126.96.36.199.2: Overflowing/Leaking Lagoons Poisoning Soils.
The first intensive Pig pharming factories were set up in the united states. Corporate Pig pharmers argued that all they needed to do to dispose of manure was to dig a hole in the ground and pour in the manure. They refused to line the lagoons to prevent leakage because, they argued, the heavier material in the manure would sink to the bottom and seal the lagoon. They dismissed accusations that the manure would leak into the water supply system. Of course, this was exactly what happened.
Many lagoons were over-filled or torrential downpours caused them to overflow, “In north carolina .. a rain swollen lagoon spilled 100 million litres of hog faeces and urine over the countryside.” It was only after a huge spill from an overfull Pig lagoon that u.s. government agencies started inspecting lagoons in north carolina and discovered the scale of the problems, “Emergency inspections by two state agencies after the june spill found 124 lagoons filled to the brink and 526 dangerously overloaded.” Pharmers benefit from floods since this washes away much of the unwanted contents of their lagoons.
188.8.131.52.3: Overspraying of Manure Poisons Soils.
If too much manure is applied to the land it poisons the soil or leaches through the soil into waterways, "The frequent application of say, chicken manure to soil has severe disadvantages. Within perhaps ten years, a sourness in the soil makes it unsuitable for the cultivation of most plants, except nettles."
Even with the best will in the world problems would occur with spraying manure onto fields. Manure can be applied only when crops are growing. It cannot be applied at other times of the year i.e. in autumn and winter because the soil cannot absorb slurry at low temperatures. Even during the right periods of the year, slurry should not be applied when it is raining to prevent it from running off into drainage ditches. In the united states many pharmers are contract pharmers who find themselves in a cut-throat market where they have to resort to all sorts of malpractices to prevent themselves from going out of business. Many of these pharmers cannot afford to pay for, or refuse to pay for, the removal of manure. It's hardly surprising that many of them find ways of illegally dumping their manure, “Officials found 122 farmers were deliberately and illegally dumping thousands of gallons of raw waste into state waters.” Given the cut-throat competition in the Pig market, it is not surprising that pharmers ‘accidentally’ spray too much manure onto their fields so that it runs away in ditches.
184.108.40.206: The Scale of Pollution Damaged Soil by Country.
“In Europe an estimated 20 million hectares of soils have been seriously damaged by industrial activity, mostly by air pollution such as acid rain and the fallout of heavy metals.”
“In Poland, 25% of the soil is thought to be too contaminated to grow food that is safe for people or livestock.”
220.127.116.11: The Global Scale of Pollution Damaged Soil.
As far as is known there are no estimates.
1.8.4: Over-Intensive Pharming.
If pharmers engage in over-intensive pharming they gradually damage the soil.
18.104.22.168: Over-Intensive Pharming by Crop.
“Robert goodland notes that “most tobacco depletes soil nutrients at a much higher rate than most other crops, thus rapidly decreasing the life of the soil.””
“Coffee is largely an export crop .. Georg borgstrom notes how the coffee planters have destroyed the soils of brazil. “The almost predatory exploitations by the coffee planters,” he writes, “have ruined a considerable proportion of brazil’s soils. In many areas, these abandoned coffee lands are so ruined that they can hardly ever be restored to crop production. In most regions, a mere one-tenth now remains of the amount of humus present when coffee cultivation was started. Therefore the coffee plantations have always been on the march, grabbing new lands and leaving behind eroded or impoverished soils.””
22.214.171.124: The Global Scale of Over Pharming.
“Each year, around 6 billion hectares of the world’s productive cropland (the size of ireland) is being lost through land degradation. In other words, around 4% of the world’s cultivated land is being destroyed or damaged each decade.”
126.96.36.199: The Soil is Dead, only Fertilizers make it seem Fertile.
The intensive exploitation of the land to produce cash crops rapidly exhausts the soil. However, by continually adding fertilizers, providing irrigation, adding pesticides, etc, crops ..continue to be grown. The fertility of the soil has been destroyed but is maintained artificially thereby creating the impression that the soil is as rich and fertile as it ever was. In many cases, if oomans stopped treating the land, the soil would rapidly disintegrate and desertification would spread.
1.8.5: Soil Disturbance Releasing Toxins.
This is a related, but different, phenomena from the damage which pollution inflicts on the soil. When soil is disturbed by ooman activities e.g. mining, deforestation followed by the creation of cropland, the digging of foundations for buildings, etc, the chemicals (and nutrients) locked up in the soil are released. This often causes acidification, “Wilhelm ripl has shown that Earth movements and drainage have begun seriously to erode the cation (positive-ion) concentrations in soils and watersheds. By definition this leads to acidification. Ripl holds that the causes for soil and water acidification lie more with Earth movements than with acid rain.”
1.8.6: Water/Wind Erosion of the Soil.
188.8.131.52: The Causes of Soil Erosion.
There are various causes of soil erosion:-
In some areas the felling of Trees causes the destruction of Vegetation leading to soil erosion, “The hill slopes have been stripped of vegetation due to dragging and rolling of huge logs.”
Over-pharming or over-grazing.
Over-pharming or over-grazing exhausts the soil leaving it vulnerable to erosion, “Note further that if croplands and pastures are degraded through mismanagement, they can release once again as much carbon from the soil as the original forest clearing that created them released from vegetation."
Prairie pharming leaves the land vulnerable to water and wind erosion. In the over-industrialized countries, floods are commonly believed to be caused either by run-off from urban areas or by deforestation. In fact many are caused by prairie pharming, “In the last twenty years there has been an increase in the incidence of flooding of property by runoff from agricultural land in many areas of northwestern europe.”; “In the last 15 years there has been an increase in the incidence of property damage due to run-off from agricultural land in england.” Some types of crop are prone to flooding .. “row crops (maize and sugarbeet) .. are 15-20 times more sensitive to erosion than cereals.”; “Between 1960 and 1986, the kinds of crops which give rise to a higher erosion risk, such as maize and sugarbeet, have increased in area, replacing cereals such as winter wheat.”; “The widespread adoption of autumn-sown wheat and barley (in england) has meant that there are large areas of bare or relatively bare surfaces between october and december, generally the wettest time of the year.”
Bad Farming Practices.
Bad farming practices on marginal lands also contributes to water/wind erosion, “Land degradation is happening today on an unprecedented scale as populations expand and as agricultural practices become more intensive, more mechanized and less attuned to local ecological needs.”
"The combination of clear-cutting and road building contribute enormously to the erosion of the soil."
“Other factors contributing to increased water/wind erosion may be summarized as:
* expansion of arable farming onto steep and vulnerable slopes;
* use of heavier and more powerful agricultural machinery with increased risk of soil compaction;
* removal of field boundaries (hedges, banks, ditches) to form larger fields;
* expansion of urban areas onto sites at risk of flooding.”
184.108.40.206: Soil Erosion by Country.
"In australia .. By 1984, it was estimated that half of the country's agricultural land was affected by soil degradation."
“In the u.k. five million acres of arable land are threatened with erosion ..”
"In China .. official estimates suggest that one-seventh of China's vast land surface is now affected by soil erosion."; "In China, average annual soil loss is some 10 tons per acre while in India 6.6 billion tonnes of topsoil are lost.”; “On April 18, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, reported that a huge dust storm from northern China had reached the United States "blanketing areas from Canada to Arizona with a layer of dust." This dust storm did not come as a surprise. On March 10, 2001, The People's Daily reported that the season's first dust storm -one of the earliest on record - had hit Beijing. These dust storms, coupled with those of last year, were among the worst in memory, signaling a widespread deterioration of the rangeland and cropland in the country's vast northwest. In addition to local pressures on resources, a decision in Beijing in 1994 to require that all cropland used for construction be offset by land reclaimed elsewhere has helped create the ecological disaster that is now unfolding. The fast-growing coastal provinces, such as Guandong, Shandong, Xheijiang, and Jiangsu, which are losing cropland to urban expansion and industrial construction, are paying other provinces to plow new land to offset their losses. This provided an initial economic windfall for provinces in the northwest, such as Inner Mongolia (which led the way with a 22-percent cropland expansion), Gansu, Qinghai, Ningxia, and Xinjiang. As the northwestern provinces, already suffering from overplowing and overgrazing, plowed ever more marginal land, wind erosion intensified. Following economic reforms in 1978 and the removal of controls on the size of herds and flocks that collectives could maintain, livestock populations grew rapidly. While plows are clearing land, expanding livestock populations are denuding the land of vegetation. Today China has 127 million cattle compared with 98 million in the United States. Its flock of 279 million sheep and goats compares with only 9 million in the United States. In Gonge County in eastern Quinghai Province, the number of sheep that local grasslands can sustain is estimated at 3.7 million, but by the end of 1998, sheep numbers there had reached 5.5 million, far beyond the land's carrying capacity. The result is fast-deteriorating grassland, desertification, and the formation of sand dunes. In the New York Times, Beijing Bureau Chief Erik Eckholm writes that "the rising sands are part of a new desert forming here on the eastern edge of the Quinghai-Tibet Plateau, a legendary stretch once known for grass reaching as high as a horse's belly and home for centuries to ethnic Tibetan herders." In addition to the direct damage from overplowing and overgrazing, the northern half of China is literally drying out as rainfall declines and aquifers are depleted by overpumping. Water tables are falling almost everywhere, gradually altering the region's hydrology. As water tables fall, springs dry up, streams no longer flow, lakes disappear, and rivers run dry. U.S. satellites, which have been monitoring land use in China for some 30 years, show that literally thousands of lakes in the North have disappeared. Official estimates show 900 square miles (2,330 square kilometers) of land going to desert each year. An area several times as large is suffering a decline in productivity as it is degraded by overuse.”
“Some 57% of the country’s land (india) is affected by degradation, the independent tata energy research institute reports in a survey of environmental damage in India over the 50 years since independence. The researchers estimate that the area of critically eroded land has doubled over the past 18 years. Of the 1% of the country’s topsoil that is eroded annually, two-fifths is permanently lost. The problem is made far worse by deforestation, they say.”
“Soil erosion has forced Kazakhstan to abandon half its cropland since 1980.”
United States of America.
“Such an incredibly large amount of silt eroding from farms, construction, roadbuilding and shorelines has entered Chesapeake Bay that it is sinking! According to a joint study by researchers from the University of Maryland and the Horn Point biological laboratory, the approximately 8.8 BILLION TONS of silt that have entered the bay over the last century are causing a geological phenomenon called, 'downwarping'. Under this tremendous additional weight, the floor of the bay is sinking, dragging the shoreline down with it.”; The u.s. is estimated to be losing 1 billion tonnes of topsoil per year.
Gregg easterbrook denies there is soil erosion in the wide open prairie pharms of the united states, “In bangladesh soil loss is proceeding at an alarming pace because farmers are too poor to practice conservation .. In the united states, farmers make enough income to care for their soils, and most own their farms, giving them incentive to keep the land whole. Most studies show that u.s. topsoil conservation is sound.”
United States of Soviet Russia.
In the 1950s there was a drive to .. “open up the marginal Grasslands of areas such as khasakstan to cultivation .. in total about 100 million acres were ploughed up between 1954 and 1960. Within a decade of the start of the programme almost half the land had been severely affected by erosion."
“In the rich countries of Europe and the USA the average loss of topsoil is 17 times the natural replacement rate. In 1988, the Soil Survey of England and Wales revealed that 44% of the country's arable land was at risk from soil erosion. In 200 years, Australians, i.e. the non-aboriginal population, have destroyed 50% of the country's topsoil. Half a million acres of irrigated land are lost each year due the accumulation of salts. In Pakistan the figure is 250 acres a day.”; “According to the UN Environmental Programme, 10% of the world's land surface already is significantly degraded. On present trends, 33% of the world's cropland could be destroyed over the next 10 years.”
220.127.116.11: Soil Erosion by Continent.
“In the sahel - those arid lands between the sahara desert and the lush Rainforest of equatorial africa - rainfall has diminished by 15% since the mid-1960s .. Robert mann .. is convinced that the drying out of west africa is a consequence of the massive deforestation - primarily the result of commercial logging and the subsequent use of Forest land for agriculture - that has occurred at an accelerating speed over the past century.”
Asia is estimated to be losing 25 billion tonnes of topsoil a year. .."
"Europe is estimated to be losing 1 billion tonnes (of topsoil) a year."
18.104.22.168: The Scale of Global Soil Erosion.
“Each year, the world's farmers lose an estimated 24 billion tons of topsoil from their cropland in excess of new soil formation. During the 1980s this translated into a loss of 240 billion tons.”; "Annual (global) soil loss amounts to 75 billion tonnes."; “Every year in Africa, Asia and south America, farmers scrape 30-40 tonnes of topsoil from every hectare and throw it into the air, or down the drain. European and u.s. farmers only throw 17 tonnes of topsoil per hectare.”; “Land degradation is happening today on an unprecedented scale as populations expand and as agricultural practices become more intensive, more mechanized and less attuned to local ecological needs. Each year, around 6 billion hectares of the world’s productive cropland (the size of Iceland) is being lost through land degradation. In other words, around 4% of the world’s cultivated land is being destroyed or damaged each decade.”; “In practical terms, what this means is that we are eroding 26 million tons of topsoil every year, we have destroyed half of our tropical rain forests; we have polluted most of our rivers and lakes and some of our groundwater; and the Planet has become one-third desert.”; “According to the u.n. environment programme, over 35% of the land surface of the Earth is now threatened by desertification.”; “More than a tenth of the world's soils have lost a substantial amount of their natural fertility in the past 45 years, according to the first results of a 15 year Global Assessment of Soil Degradation, funded by the United Nations Environment Programme.
Soil erosion also means the loss of water which makes it even harder for Plants to grow. In the wealthiest nations, especially the united states, the costs of soil erosion can be substantial but such are the vast welfare benefit subsidies being given to agriculture that such losses are not deemed to be significant, “All this means energy: economists are fond of saying that land is just a way converting petroleum energy into food. David Pimentel reckons that 10% of all the energy used in US agriculture today is there only to offset the costs of erosion. One cost of erosion is loss of nutrients; another is loss of water. If you want to grow 7,000 kg of corn from a hectare of US soil in a season, you will need four million litres just to be gathered by the roots and pass up the stems to transpire from the leaves, and another two million litres will evaporate from the soil while this happens. It takes about 660 litres of water to produce a pound of wheat. But an erosion of 17 tonnes per hectare per year means that the same soil loses 75 mm of rainfall which it could have stored. If the water has to be replaced, then it would cost $30 per hectare per year to pump ground water to the fields to make up the loss, and take about 70 litres of diesel fuel. It would also cost $100 a year per hectare to make up for the nutrients lost by erosion. So erosion costs the US consumer $196 a hectare. To put it another way, erosion alone causes the loss of 4 billion tonnes of topsoil and 130 billion tonnes of water in the United States every year, and the bill for this in added nutrients and lost water and productivity is $27 billion. Pimentel and his team estimate that erosion costs the US$44bn a year.”;
1.8.7: Irrigation and Salinization.
22.214.171.124: Two Types of Irrigation.
There are two types of irrigation scheme: one uses surface water, often stored in water reservoirs behind dams, and the other uses fossilized water pumped from underground. In reality, some pharmers may be fortunate enough to enjoy supplies from both sources.
In order to understand the way that irrigation affects Photosynthesis, it is necessary to distinguish between irrigation schemes on previously Forested land and irrigation schemes on reclaimed land such as desert soils. If irrigated land had previously been Forested then no matter how successful irrigation may be in producing crops, it won’t generate anything like the same level of Photosynthesis as before. If irrigation in such areas goes wrong then the decline in Photosynthesis is total - in effect dropping from Forests, to crops, to desert. Unfortunately, it is not known how much land has been destroyed by irrigation nor is it known by how much this has reduced the Earth’s Photosynthetic capacity. This section is solely concerned with irrigation schemes on previously Forested land. Part Two explores irrigation schemes on reclaimed land such as desert soils.
126.96.36.199: The Scale of Irrigation.
"Three quarters of the water put into service by humans today goes to irrigate crops. Today, irrigated fields cover approaching 3 million square kilometres of the planet, mostly in the dry Middle East and the monsoon lands of Asia. Irrigation reaches 18% of all the fields in the world. And more than a third of the global harvest is grown on those fields."; “Although used on 17% of the world’s total cropland, irrigation enables agriculture to supply 40% of the world’s food. After rapid expansion during the 1960s and 1970s, the area dedicated to irrigation reached 250 million hectares by 1994, but the rate of growth has slowed and, at best, is unlikely to exceed more than 0.3% a year over the next half century. In many instances, acquifers are becoming depleted or salinized as salts accumulate: moreover, as rapidly as new areas for irrigation are opened up old areas are being discarded. .. over 25% of the land used for irrigated agriculture in the indus basin is now damaged because of salinization and waterlogging.”
188.8.131.52: Water Logging and Salinization.
Over-irrigation causes water-logging leading to salinization which results eventually in desertification. Salinization .. “kills plants, destroys the soil structure and reduces plant growth. Salinization often occurs where irrigation is introduced without making proper provision for drainage. It can, however, also be an unwanted consequence of vegetation clearance. The removal of plants reduces the amount of moisture lost from the soil as a result of the interception of rainfall by leaves and evapotranspiration. As a result, groundwater levels rise and saline water is allowed to seep into low-lying areas like valley bottoms. This is a serious cause of salinization both in the prairies of north america and in the wheat belt of western australia.”; “Probably the most serious result of salinization is its impact on Plant growth. This takes place partly through its effect on soil structure, but more significantly through its effects on osmotic pressures and through direct toxicity.”
184.108.40.206.1: Salinization Per Country.
“Hundreds of thousands of hectares of western australia have been poisoned by salt.”
“In China, more than 900,000 ha of saline and waterlogged land has been abandoned since 1980.”
“In Egypt the introduction of perennial irrigation has salinized a third of the country’s cultivated land in little more than 30 years and condemned 90% to waterlogging.”
“In the soviet union, 2.9 million ha of degraded irrigated land were taken out of production between 1971 and 1985 ...”
“ .. in the U.S. where a quarter to a third of the country’s irrigated land suffers from salinity.”
General: Argentina, Egypt, India, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Syria.
“One scientist argues that salt threatens the national economies of Argentina, Egypt, India, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Syria.”
220.127.116.11.2: The Scale of Global Salinization.
“About a third of the world's irrigated cropland is losing productivity because of waterlogging and salinization.”; “Salt is the scourge of most irrigation schemes. According to the united nations' food and agriculture organization as much as half of all irrigation systems around the world are seriously affected by salinity or related problems of waterlogging. Some 10,000 square kilometres of land are abandoned every year because of salt encroachment.”; .. “in all, one third of the total area of the world’s irrigated land has already been blighted by salinization.”; "Between 20m and 30m hectares (8-12% of world irrigated area) is estimated to suffer from serious salinization, while an additional 60-80 mh is believed to be moderately affected."
18.104.22.168: The Reduction in Global Photosynthesis.
The scale of the reduction in Photosynthesis brought about by waterlogging/salinization on formerly Forested land is not known. But it has been estimated that, “Some 10,000 square kilometres of land are abandoned every year because of salt encroachment.”
1.8.8: The Suffocation of the Soil.
The suffocation of the soil destroys its capacity for Photosynthesis. In geophysiological terms, there is very little difference between a natural desert and a ooman-made tarmac/concrete desert where soil is suffocated under buildings, roads, waste disposal sites, etc.
22.214.171.124: The Suffocation caused by Concretization/Urbanization.
The suffocation of the soil by concrete is often referred to as urbanization but this is inadequate since soils are also suffocated by the increasing number of buildings being built in the countryside. It is also referred to as industrialization but this too is inadequate because the same problems also occurs outside the over-industrialized nations. Concrete is one of the biggest ‘pollutants’ on Earth and a major cause of the disruption of the Planet’s climate, "We have covered so much of the urban landscape with tarmac, concrete and roof tiles, that a shower of rain has little chance of soaking in and replenishing the ground."; “Of all human activities, however, it is the relentless tide of brick, concrete and tarmac that creates the greatest environmental damage, sterilising an ever increasing area of land.”
126.96.36.199.1: Concretization Per Country.
“The survey reveals that in the six years from 1984 to 1990 the built up area of Britain grew by around 130 square kilometres a year from 16,100 to 16,900 sqr kilometres. This is an increase equivalent to 16 cities the size of Exeter.”; "The Council for the Protection of Rural England's new report, England's Lost Land, shows that 705,000 hectares - that's Greater London, Berkshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire combined - has been turned to housing, industrial development and roads since the war. An area the size of Exeter, Norwich and Oxford is lost every year. Continue at this rate and England will be 20 per cent covered in concrete by 2050. Successive governments, moreover, have politically benefited by understating the degree of urbanization that has occurred: 180,000 urbanized hectares (the size of Greater London) has mysteriously disappeared from the statistics."; "Across the UK as a whole we estimate that 2,848 km2 is devoted to roads alone - an area larger than the whole of Leicestershire. And this is not the full picture - a fifth as much land again is taken for parking the vehicles that use the roads. Our research shows that in the UK the area devoted to parking is over 590km2 - a portion of land twice the size of Birmingham. Taking the total area dedicated to roads and parking, each car and lorry in the UK is responsible for over 160m2 of concrete and tarmac. This figure is based on conservative assumptions, and excludes land given over to activities such as building cars or quarrying for the material to build the roads."; “An estimated 14,070 hectres of land in Great Britain were taken for the development of the road infrastructure between 1985 and 1990. Of this, 50% was agricultural land, 33% was in urban use (mainly previously developed vacant land and existing road use) and 16% was semi-natural or uncultivated land or forest.”
“In china, the non farmland needs of a population of 1.1 billion people for new houses, factories, schools, and roads are reducing china’s cropland area by an estimated 1% every two years.”; “Rapid industrialization is already taking a toll (in china) as grain area has dropped from 90.8 million hectares in 1990 to an estimated 87.4 million in 1994. This annual drop of 850,000 hectares, or nearly 1% ...”
Geoffrey lean has stated that, “Nearly three quarters of Japan’s land shelters beneath forests of pine, cedar and beech.” However, the rest of the country has become a massive construction site, “The japanese construction industry is the world’s biggest concrete-pouring enterprise, and it is out of control, says brian woodall from the university of california .. Public works such as roads, airports, dams and flood defences cost the government 60 trillion yen (about £318 billion) a year. The u.s. a country with twice the population and 25 times the land area, spent half that amount on similar projects. Construction, according to the japanese times, “is an edifice of corruption that staggers the imagination.” The result is, literally, like nothing on Earth. Travelling around japan last autumn i saw an entire country being systematically covered in concrete. Coastlines and hillsides, flood plains and riverbeds.”
“The Peruvian plan (national plans for forestry formulated through the TFAP) notes that the colonization of the country’s lowland is the main cause of forest loss, and that most of this has been made possible by government projects to open up the forests through road-building. The plan even proposes the creation of a massive network of roads in the forests to facilitate timber extraction. Under the Peruvian plan, logging is to be stepped up by between 390%-590%”
United States of America.
"Across in the USA, road developments covered an area equivalent to that of the state of nebraska between 1945-75.” ; “Between 1945 and 1975 about 30 million hectares of land in the US were lost under concrete and asphalt."
188.8.131.52.2: International Comparisons.
"East Asia's average level of urbanization is only 27% compared to 71% for latin America, and is roughly comparable to Africa's."; "Huge tracts of farmland were being lost to the growing cities, in India and China and other parts of Asia at a rate of 1,900 square miles every year."
184.108.40.206.3: The Scale of Global Concretization.
The scale of the land suffocated beneath concrete is not known. A rough estimate can only be inferred from the scale of cement production, “The rate of use of cement .. in 1980 it was 920,000x103 tonnes.”
220.127.116.11: The Suffocation caused by Waste Dumps.
18.104.22.168.1: The Mining Industry.
Vast quantities of mining wastes are being generated around the world releasing poisons into the soil and thus damaging Photosynthesis - see ‘22.214.171.124: The Poisoning of the Soil by Toxic Waste Dumps and Mining Wastes’). But such wastes are also damaging Photosynthesis in another, much simpler way - suffocating Phytomass.
The mining industry suffocates the soil in a number of ways. Firstly, strip mining strips away the top soil and buries it in waste dumps. Secondly, the separation of ores from waste materials leads to the generation of 'tailings' which are dumped on the land suffocating/poisoning the soil. Thirdly, the processing of ores also generates waste material which is dumped, “What is left, mostly near the mine, is labelled ‘overburden’ (rock that had to be stripped away to get at the underlying ore-bearing formation), or ‘tailings’ (ground up rock left over from the chemical extraction of the ore-bearing mineral) .. Often such leftovers are poisonous to Plants and Animals.” It has been estimated that, “A rule of thumb for mining (and also for logging and farming) is that each ton of final product, eventually to become garbage in many cases, is preceded by five tons of waste generated during manufacturing, and by twenty tons of it during initial resource extraction.” Large areas of the Planet's topsoil has been suffocated underneath waste heaps created by open cast, and underground, mining.
126.96.36.199.2: The Scale of Global Mining Extraction.
The scale of global mining extraction is vast, “In 1990, mines scouring the crust of the Earth to supply the consumer class moved more soil and rock than did all the world's rivers combined.”
188.8.131.52.3: Mining Extraction per Country.
A huge uranium mine may be permitted in an australian national park.
“The Brazilian Carajas project, one of the greatest man-made ecological disasters this century. All the evidence shows that an area of Amazonian rainforest larger than Europe has been deforested or flooded in the last 10 years partly to provide EC industry - including British Steel - with cheap ore. The EC provided a $600 million loan contract in return for 13.6 million tonnes of iron ore a year for 15 years. The parallel Grande Carajas project costing US$62 billion and covering an area of 900,000 sqr kilometres which has involved vast hydro-electric projects, iron ore workings, lakes the size of Europe, a railway and other develkopments."
Papua New Guinea.
Rtz has a massive mining operation in bougainville, once part of the solomon islands but transferred to papua new guinea by the australians in 1975, “Over 400 hectares were chemically sprayed with chemicals such as arsenic pentoxide solution and the herbicide ‘bush killer’ to make way for the mine. The mine is one of the largest holes in the planet, measuring an area 6 kilometres long by 4 kilometres wide, and half a kilometre deep. Over a billion tonnes of chemical wastes and tailings have been dumped in rivers, which in turn have polluted over 4,000 hectares of once fertile river valleys. In fact 3,000 hectares of land have been totally destroyed.”
United States of America.
"Cyanide heap leach mining makes previously insignificant deposits of gold cost-effective to mine. It involves strip-mining MILLIONS of tons of earth, crushing it, and heaping it onto a polyethylene liner. The unearthed mountains are sprayed with a highly alkaline cyanide solution which leeches out the gold. The gold laden solution is then drained into a holding pond until it can be pumped through to the on site processing plant. The gold is distilled from the cyanide and prepared to be used by jewellers, dentists and the computer and aerospace industries. The cyanide is then either re-used or pumped with waste ore to a tailings pond."; "In the United States, current and abandoned metal and coal mines occupy an estimated 9 million hectares (22 million acres)."
In the u.s. it is possible for anyone who finds a commercially valuable mineral deposit .. "to claim the land and patent it as private for only $5/acre. Public lands are littered with these unpatented time-bombs, and since Wilderness and Roadless Area Protection Acts are not retrospective, the holders of old claims can decide to patent them and begin mining them even after areas are set aside as Wilderness. 3.2 million acres of once public land have been made private under this act.”
According to ernst von weizacker, amory b lovins & hunter l lovins, “By moving things around we do a lot of damage. We overstress the Earth’s capacity safely to absorb the thousands of millions of tonnes that we return as waste or overburden. The avalanches of matter may turn out to be the greatest threat to the global environment.”
184.108.40.206: The Suffocation caused by Rubbish/Waste Dumps.
The soil is also suffocated when it is covered in rubbish/waste dumps. Large areas around the world have been covered in an array of car dumps, tyre dumps, waste tips - whether legal or illegal, etc.
220.127.116.11.1: Toxic Waste Dumps per Country.
“There are more than 4500 toxic waste tips in brutland alone, at least 1300 of which have been identified as posing a serious risk to the environment."; "One million tons of fly tipped waste now awaited clearance from 500 illegal sites in london."
"More than 1.6 billion tons of Russia's toxic industrial waste is dumped on unused ground or in quarries outside major cities."
18.104.22.168.2: Toxic Waste Exports.
“In 1993 Britain exported 105,000 tonnes of waste, half of it to south-east Asia, three times more than three years ago.”
"According to the OECD, the club of 24 industrialized nations, in 1990 some 40 billion tonnes of waste worth $19 billion were exported for recycling worldwide. The industry employs 350,000 people and generates revenues of $38 billion a year. Most of the profits go to OECD countries."; “All exports of hazardous wastes from rich countries to poor ones will be outlawed from the end of 1997, the 64 members of the UN toxic waste convention decided yesterday.”
22.214.171.124.3: The Global Scale of Toxic Waste Dumps.
The scale of global despoilation is simply not known.
126.96.36.199: The Suffocation of Soils caused by Oil Spills.
Oil spills suffocate the soil in the same way as concrete. Most oil spills on land are temporary but, in tropical countries, large oil spills are baked in the sun and turn into something resembling a semi permanent road. In fact some roads are created simply by spraying oil onto a track.
188.8.131.52.1: Oil Suffocation Per Country.
The following are a small number of samples of the suffocation caused by oil pollution.
“For nearly 20 years, international oil companies, led by Texaco, have sucked oil from a vast reserve near the headwaters of the Amazon. A pipeline stretches from the Oriente (the Ecuadorian Amazon), climbs nearly 10,000 feet over the Andes and drops back down to the coast for refining export (mostly to the US). For the past two decades, this pipeline and other oil activities leaked more than 16 million gallons of oil (more than the Exxon Valdez spill) into the rainforest.”
“Texaco first acquired an interest in the oriente in march 1964 .. it built the 500-km trans-ecuadorian pipeline in the summer of 1972, stretching from the oriente into peru. Ecuador’s 13 million hectares of rain forest, known as the oriente .. over 1 million hectares of the oriente are used for oil production activites .. The waste from these operations (by texaco and others) was staggering. Kimerling calculated that some 5,000,000 gallons of untreated toxic waste were discharged every year from producing wells, with flowline spills accounting for up to a further 500,000 gallons of oil spilled annually. Nearly 20 billion gallons of toxic waste had been dumped since 1972, threatending soil, surface and groundwaters. An estimated 53,000,000 cubic feet of gas is burned daily despite the fact that ecuador imports gas for domestic use.”
The iraqi invasion of kuwait led to a vast release of oil which has poisoned huge areas of land “In the al-sabriyah oilfields in northern kuwait, huge oil lakes are threatening plants and wildlife and the water supplies used by Kuwait city.”
“Oil spills from pipelines and other oil operations in the (ogoni) region have become a routine occurrence. Official estimates record some 2,300 cubic metres of oil spilt annually in some 300 pollution incidents, although the true figure could be ten times higher. From 1982 to 1992, 1.6 million u.s. gallons of oil were spilt from shell’s operations in twenty seven separate incidents. .. shell’s own figures report that since 1989 there have been 190 spills per year, involving on average 319,200 u.s. gallons of oil. Unlined waste pits are said to litter the region.”
“Nowhere on Earth has such a large hydrocarbon resource been exploited so quickly and wastefully as in western Siberia. .. none of the 7000 kilometres of oil pipelines in the Noyabr’sk district has devices for detecting leaks. Noyabr’sk, a city surrounded by forests when construction began, is built almost entirely of concrete. In the Noyabr’sk district alone, there are 1200 kilometres of roads, most perched on top of wide embankments, and some 12,000 oil wells on several thousand separate drilling pads, each pad containing an estimated 50,000 tonnes of sand. All drilling operations produce large amounts of oily waste - about 40,000 cubic metres per well according to one estimate.”; “Each year during the 1980s an estimated 18 million barrels of oil devastated western siberia, destroying 55,000km2 of fragile permafrost ecology.”; “Moscow news had reported in 1991 that, country-wide, 12 to 15 million tonnes of oil (88-110 million barrels, or between 350 and 440 exxon valdez’s) were spilt each year.”
184.108.40.206.2: The Scale of Global Oil Suffocation.
"In 1979, the amount of oil lost worldwide on land and sea through spillage, fire, and sinkings reached a peak of 328 million gallons; since then it has dropped between 24 and 55 million a year."
220.127.116.11: State Planned Land Settlement.
A number of industrializing governments are attempting to combat starvation, and avert social and political unrest, by moving millions of people into Wilderness/Forest areas to grow their own food on newly cleared areas of land, “Planned land settlement in tropical forests has been promoted in countries such as Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and, to a minor extent, Venezuela. (Also) Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala .. Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Vietnam and the Philippines.”
18.104.22.168: The Global Scale of Suffocation.
As far as is known there are no estimates of the amount of land being suffocated around the world nor the damage this is doing to the Earth’s Photosynthetic capacity.
22.214.171.124: Livestock Overpopulation.
Allowing too many Animals to graze on a particular area leads not merely to the destruction of vegetation but, ultimately, to desertification, "Continuous grazing not only suppresses all regeneration of trees but also reduces the productivity and the quality of the grasslands. In fact this is why vast tracts of India have today come to be called wastelands."; “Grazing by goats and sheep, the first domesticated ruminants, was a major factor in the denuding of greece, lebanon, and north africa, and the desertification of the roman and mesopotamian empires.”
126.96.36.199: Fecal Pavements.
It might be thought that livestock grazing on pastureland would not cause an ecological problem. However, in the tropics, the manure of exotic livestock animals lies on top of the soil and is baked into a cement hard substance which smothers vegetation, "Cow pats are produced moist and they quickly lose ammonia to the atmosphere. Cow pats also dry rapidly in the sun and heat up, killing the bacteria and fungi that might speed their decomposition. The flat, dried cow pat also kills the grass beneath it creating a 'fecal pavement'.” This 'fecal pavement' reduces Photosynthesis and thus boosts global burning.
188.8.131.52: The Trampling of the Soil as a result of Sinking Bore Holes.
In parts of africa, the introduction of exotic livestock species such as Cattle, Goats, and Sheep, has led to desertification. Unlike indigenous species, exotics need easy access to waterholes. This necessitates sinking bore holes and then pumping ground water to the surface. When animals use the water hole they quickly trample the surrounding vegetation into the ground and turn the soil into dust. The longer the water hole is used, the greater the circle of damage. The hooves of exotics tend to trample vegetation whereas those of indigenous species do not, "From an ecological point of view domestic cattle are a source of environmental deterioration in hot semi-arid climates. Cattle (and goats and sheep) must walk to a water supply to drink. This results in the trampling of valuable grasses and compacting of the soil surface, especially around water holes - where bare, pounded areas continually grow in size."; "In the Sahel and in Africa in general, cattle are playing a major role in desertification." Once again, the destruction of vegetation reduces the Earth's Photosynthetic capacity and boosts global burning.
184.108.40.206: Overgrazing per Country.
"Following economic reforms in 1978 and the removal of controls on the size of herds and flocks that collectives could maintain, livestock populations grew rapidly. While plows are clearing land, expanding livestock populations are denuding the land of vegetation. Today China has 127 million cattle compared with 98 million in the United States. Its flock of 279 million sheep and goats compares with only 9 million in the United States. In Gonge County in eastern Quinghai Province, the number of sheep that local grasslands can sustain is estimated at 3.7 million, but by the end of 1998, sheep numbers there had reached 5.5 million, far beyond the land's carrying capacity. The result is fast-deteriorating grassland, desertification, and the formation of sand dunes.”
1.8.10: The Global Destruction of Soils.
Desertification in its various forms is leading to a significant reduction in the Earth’s Photosynthetic capacity.
220.127.116.11: The Decline in Soil Fertility.
The first stage in the move toward desertification is usually the decline in soil fertility, “More than a tenth of the world's soils have lost a substantial amount of their natural fertility in the past 45 years, according to the first results of a 15 year Global Assessment of Soil Degradation, funded by the United Nations Environment Programme.”
18.104.22.168: Desertification per Region.
A substantial part of the Earth’s top-soil is being lost.
“Desertification (in china) is spreading at the rate of 1,000 square km annually. The total area of desert land has nearly doubled since the communist revolution of 1949.”
“Europe is estimated to be losing 1 billion tonnes a year. Asia 25 billion tonnes and the US 1 billion tonnes. Annual soil loss amounts to 75 billion tonnes.”
“Nevertheless, u.s. researcher concluded from a study of satellite images that in the 1980s the sahara did grow, but unsteadily. In 1989, the desert covered 3,333,462 square miles, and in 1990 3,579,041 square miles, with a boundary 80 miles south of its 1980 position.” However, it has been argued, “In 1984 the united nation asserted that the desert was swallowing 21m hectares of land every year. That claim has been comprehensively demolished. There has been and is no net advance of the desert at all.”
"Between 1960 and the late 1980s the soviet union lost more previously productive land to waterlogging-salinization than the cultivated area of ireland and belgium combined."; "Overall, more than 70 million acres of irrigated land has been ruined and the adversely affected area is increasing by about three and a half million acres a year."
22.214.171.124: The Gobal Scale of Desertification.
There are many estimates of the scale of desertification around the world.
"Erosion, salinization and water logging are now destroying as much, if not more, land than that being brought under cultivation."; "15 million acres every year turns to desert, 50 million becomes too poor to support crop or cattle (because of aggressive farming, overgrazing, salinity), 800 million is losing topsoil at an alarming rate because of erosion by wind or water.”
"By the end of this century one-third of all the world's farmland will be unproductive semi-desert."
"Approximately 6 million hectares of arable land are turned into deserts each year.
Ehrlichs, Paul and Anne.
“In the 1980s more land went out of production (largely because of exhaustion, desertification, or failed irrigation) than was newly opened and the world's cropland shrank some 7%.”;
“Desertification affects nearly 30% of the world’s land - 1 million hectares in africa and 1.4 million hectares in asia .. ”
Ophuls, William & Boyan jr, stephen.
“In practical terms, what this means is that we are eroding 26 million tons of topsoil every year, we have destroyed half of our tropical rain forests; we have polluted most of our rivers and lakes and some of our groundwater; and the planet has become one-third desert.”
"The twentieth century has seen the steady advance of deserts into once productive areas. Desertification now affects the south western parts of the u.s., northern mexico, north africa, the sahel, large parts of southern africa and parts of australia. Between 1925 and 1975 the Sahara desert grew by about 250,000 square miles along its southern edge."
"Around 6 million hectares of new desert are formed every year through poor management and changing climatic conditions."
Real World Resources Guide Website .
“World-wide, an area the size of Virginia has to be abandoned each year due to erosion, waterlogging, salinisation and other forms of degradation.”
UN Environment Programme.
“According to the UN Environment Programme, over 35% of the land surface of the earth is now threatened by desertification.”; "As much as 28% of the world's land surface suffers from drought. Mineral stressed soils account for a further 23%."; "Each year about 11 million hectares of our arable land are lost through erosion, desertification, toxification and conversion to non-agricultural uses. Altogether, one third of the planet's land surface is semi-arid or arid."; "At bottom, 35% of the world's land surface is at risk from turning into deserts. This land is home to 850 million people. There are 45 million square kilometres of drylands. Of these an area which is about as big as North and South America combined is already at risk of turning into desert.";
"15 million acres every year turns to desert,
50 million becomes too poor to support crop or cattle (because of aggressive farming, overgrazing, salinity)
800 million is losing topsoil at an alarming rate because of erosion by wind or water."
126.96.36.199: Critics of Desertification.
“In 1984 the united nations asserted that the desert was swallowing 21m hectares of land every year. That claim has been comprehensively demolished. There has been and is no net advance of the desert at all.
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