Gulf Cooperation Council
Network for Drylands Research & Development

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مجلس التعاون الخليجي لدراسات

الأراضي القاحلة و التطوير

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Human Impact on the Biosphere

According to the World Resources Institute (WRI), already in 1993 nearly one-quarter of the vegetated land area of the Earth has been highly disturbed by human activity and an additional 28 percent has been moderately disturbed. Over a century later, human misuse of natural resources and disturbance of natural environmental systems is pushing the Earth to the limits of its capacity. Numerous natural resources are being consumed at rates that far exceed the speed at which they can be regenerated or replenished. Uncontrolled or excessive exploitation through e.g. deforestation, overgrazing (Pastoral Management Systems), excessive cultivation due to inappropriate agricultural projects, proliferation of invasive aliens, inadequate irrigation practices, man-made fires, irresponsible tourism and other forms of land resource exploitation such as mining or oil and gas surveys can have a profound effects on the natural environment.

There is no doubt, that the anthropogenic impact on the natural environment caused by the unsustainable exploitation of available natural resources should be studied, analyzed, and understood to avoid environmental mistakes in the future.

"Human Impact" extremely visual :-( - just have a click on the National Geographic Banner and have a look for yourself.

National Geo02


Perhaps the most significant aspect of the UNCCD definition of the concept of desertification is its focus on "human activities." This new definition of desertification certainly differentiates it from simple climatic fluctuations such as drought.
However the concept that the anthropogenic factor plays a major role in the process of desertification was already formulated by the French botanist Le Houérou in 1976: "... on its edges the Sahara is mainly made by man; climate being only a supporting factor". 1 Therefore it should be noted that drought can cause an exacerbation of damage derived from human activities. In this sense the definition of desertification offered by Prof. Mainguet suggested the complexity of the phenomenon and states that desertification is "revealed by drought," but "caused by human activities." 2


1 Rapp, A., A Review of Desertization in Africa - Water, Vegetation and Man, 1974, p. 32 also cf. Mensching, H. G., Desertifikation, 1990, p. 2. "..desertification is a man-induced phenomenon, aggravated by climatic circumstances such as periodical prolonged drought...".

2 Cf. i.a. Mainguet, Monique, Desertification. Natural Background and Human Mismanagement, 1994.

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