A quick view of the reality of desertification in the Arab world, is enough to realize that the Arab region is characterized by climatic conditions being critical with limited natural resources. In addition to that, there is water scarcity levels in most countries in the region, and it is among the world’s highest levels. Rainfall is low with irregular rates, and the region is experiencing recurrent droughts, which contributes to the acceleration of desertification processes, supported by the climatic changes that lead to the increasing burden of the drought in the Arab region.
The estimated desertified area in the Arab world is 9.8 million square kilometers, representing 68 percent of the total area of the Arab nation. The area threatened by desertification, however, is estimated at about 2.87 million square kilometers (Arab Organization for Agricultural Development 2007), and the pastures’ area decreased from 510 million hectares in 1986 to 456 million hectares in 2005 (ACSAD 2007), and the cereal crop area decreased from 31 million hectares in 2003 to 28.2 million hectares in 2004.
Statistics also indicate that the average per capita from agricultural output continues to decline, with a decrease of nearly 253 percent of the average individual during 1990-1994 to about 216 percent per capita in the middle east during the period 2000-2004 (the Arab Organization for Agricultural development 2007).
The main reasons behind desertification, however, are due to two main factors:
Human Factor: Reasons resulting from this factor are seen in the following:
- Population pressure on water resources and misusing it.
- Using pastoral lands in rain-fed agriculture or converting them to irrigated farms.
- Overgrazing and early grazing, in addition to increasing the numbers of animal wealth- deforestation.
- Misuse of land resources.
- Non-guided use of fertilizers and agricultural pesticides.
Climatic factor: climatic changes in the Arab region play an important role regarding droughts and the emergence of fragile ecosystems, which are characterized by the weakness of vegetation, and the rule of non-advanced soils which are easily eroded by wind and water. No doubt that climate change has a direct impact on desertification processes, which is summarized as follows:
– Drop of groundwater levels.
-Increase in Soil erosion due to the low percentage of plant coverage.
-Variance in pastures’ productivity depending on the amount and distribution of rainfall.
– Deterioration in Natural vegetation.
– Crop plants affected by droughts, and having lower productivity.
– Deterioration in Soil fertility and an increase in its salinity.
It is noted that the relation between desertification and climate changes is an exchanged relation, and as the climate changes have a large effect on desertification operations, desertification also plays a major role in climate changes through the following:
Removing vegetation leads to lowering the amount of rainfall reserved in trees and increases the runoff, and thus lowering air humidity.
– The phenomenon of desertification leads to the removal of the surface layer of the soil, and thus decreasing the moisture of the soil contained to the earth’s surface due to it being absorbed by the dust.
Overall, there are common negative effects for desertification and climate changes, especially the regression of agricultural production, the degradation of vegetation, the loss of biodiversity, and the lack of providing water and food, which is a common threat to food security, and poses economic and social repercussions.