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The Biology of Deserts$
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David Ward

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199211470

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199211470.001.0001

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Human impacts and desertification

Human impacts and desertification

(p.217) 10 Human impacts and desertification
The Biology of Deserts

David Ward

Oxford University Press

There is a common myth that deserts are extremely sensitive to perturbation. While it is true that tracks made decades ago can still be seen in certain desert areas, there are also large regions of deserts that show little negative impact of heavy use by humans. This paradox can be explained by considering the interactions between the high spatial and temporal variability in rainfall, and patterns of human disturbance. Desertification is of great concern in many parts of the world, yet people struggle to define it. Losses of agricultural productivity are associated with the process of desertification, although these can have other causes such as declining returns from certain agricultural products. Indeed, it is the long-term declines in productivity and ecosystem function that are most closely tied to desertification. These are usually caused by direct human intervention.

Keywords:   pastoralism, aquifers, oil extraction, military manoeuvres, piospheres, disturbance, desertification

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