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Researchers offer new insights on arid, semiarid landscapes. Understanding and predicting desertification

EurekAlert (1-Jun-2006)

Researchers offer new insights on arid, semiarid landscapes. Understanding and predicting desertification

EurekAlert (1-Jun-2006)

A team of researchers has developed a multi-faceted process to study arid and semiarid landscapes that takes into account the wide range of factors influencing changes that can result in desertification.

Almost 40 percent of the Earth’s surface and 20 percent of the world’s population are found in regions that are under threat from desertification, which can result in the loss of grass and degradation of soil as grasslands are converted into woody-plant-dominated landscapes.

Although many research methods exist to study various facets of this process, more complete understanding of desertification can be achieved by looking back in time at historic legacies, considering environmental factors and studying soil, typography and soil parent material. Also considered is the influence of wind, water and animals as they transport water, nutrients, soil particles, plant litter and seeds. The redistribution of those resources also is weighed in the landscape reorganization.

The researchers offer a six-step operational scheme to unravel the complex influences of these variables. The first step is to "look up" to assess the broad scale, then "look back" in time to determine the role of past events on the present landscape. Third, "look around" to consider adjacent spaces and the influence of wind, water and animals as connecting transport vectors. "Look down" to determine fine-scale properties and processes of the landscape, then integrate the information from broad scale to fine scale to determine the most important influences. Finally, "look forward" in time to the effects of variable environmental factors from the current landscape to the future.

Story Source  : New Mexico State University

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