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Desertification: Time for an Assessment?

Ulf Helldén
Ambio
Vol. 20, No. 8, Forestry and the Environment (Dec., 1991), pp. 372-383
Published by: Springer on behalf of Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4313868
Page Count: 12
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Desertification: Time for an Assessment?
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Abstract

United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) considers desertification to be one of the major environmental problems of our time. According to UNEP, 35% of the world's land surface is currently at risk and more than 20 million hectares are reduced annually to near or complete uselessness. The Sahel of Africa is supposed to be the most stricken region of the world. The Saharan desert has been described to encroach southwards at an increasing rate. The desertification phenomenon is considered to be mainly man-made. The prevailing concept of desertification, status and rate of change has been seriously challenged during the 1980s by a growing number of individuals, research groups and international organisations. In particular, this is true for the Sahelian zone of Africa. It has even been questioned whether desertification is actually occurring and the word "myth" has been mentioned. There is a lack of data to substantiate the hypothesis of a secular, mainly man-made, trend towards desertlike conditions in the Sahel. The need for a "desertification" assessment, based on scientific principles, is strongly felt.

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