Bringing science and development together through news and analysis

Scientific facts on desertification

This document is a three-tier summary of the 'Ecosystems and human well-being: desertification synthesis' report published by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) in 2005. It begins with nine questions and answers introducing the subject, defining desertification, its causes, effects and how it can be better understood.

Answers are then further developed, addressing sub-questions such as how vulnerable are affected populations? And what social, economic and policy factors contribute to desertification?

Finally, it uses extracts from the MA report itself to support the arguments made.

The document estimates that 10-20 per cent of drylands are degraded and identifies desertification as a major environmental challenge affecting some of the world's poorest populations. The MA report suggests prevention as the most effective way to cope with desertification but argues that reducing the pressure on dryland resources must be accompanied by efforts to reduce poverty, as the two are closely linked.