Desertification is a serious and irreversible state of land degradation, particularly evident in drylands. Land degradation is a global phenomenon that can be equated to a persistent reduction in biological and economic potential of the land to support human livelihood. All over the globe, this is mainly caused by land use changes related to population pressures and increasing economic needs resulting in non-adapted agricultural expansion, deforestation, over use of marginal and range lands. Land degradation is often linked to poverty especially in vulnerable drylands where external factors such as prolonged drought and climate change can aggravate and speed up these processes. The global importance of the problem is highlighted by the fact that drylands cover about 41% of the Earth’s surface and that they are home to about one third of the world's population.
Desertification, land degradation and drought are major environmental threats with serious impacts on human well-being © S.Manfredi
These issues highlight the urgent need for European and global efforts towards coordinated assessment, monitoring and mitigation strategies in these fields. The Institute for Environment and Sustainability (IES) joins forces with the international scientific community in order to provide scientific support to develop adequate tools for the implementation of policies and conventions related to drought and desertification in Europe and worldwide.
Map representing changes in the capacity to supply primary production as an ecosystem service over the period 1999-2007 (from favourable in dark green, to unfavourable in red)
The IES is working towards developing benchmarks and indicators for monitoring and assessing desertification processes at a range of geographic scales. It also provides scientific support for the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) ten-year implementation strategy and reform process.
In response to the interest expressed by the UNCCD Committee on Science and Technology (CST) for an updated World Atlas on Desertification, the IES in partnership with United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is coordinating the compilation of a new atlas, which will be a means of bringing scientific advancements into the policy arena for better decision making and mitigation. The previous World Atlas of Desertification (2nd edition) was published in 1997.
More publications can be found on the Desert Action homepage
Jürgen Vogt Tel: +(39) 0332 785481 E:mail juergen.vogt(at)jrc.ec.europa.eu
Michael Cherlet Tel: +(39) 0332 789982 E-mail: michael.cherlet(at)jrc.ec.europa.eu