Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


38 percent of world's surface in danger of desertification

"Despite improvements in the LCA, it has a methodological weakness, which is a lack of environmental impact categories to measure the effect of human activities such as cultivation or grazing on the soil", Montserrat Núñez, lead author and a researcher at the Institute of Agro Food Research and Technology (IRTA), tells SINC.

The research, published in the latest issue of the International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, is the first study in the world to include the impact of desertification in the LCA, based on classifying 15 natural areas or "eco-regions" according to their degree of aridity. By simultaneously using the LCA and a Geographic Information System (GIS), the researchers have shown that eight of these 15 areas can be classified as at risk of desertification, representing 38% of the land surface of the world.

The eight natural areas at risk are coastal areas, the Prairies, the Mediterranean region, the savannah, the temperate Steppes, the temperate deserts, tropical and subtropical Steppes, and the tropical and subtropical deserts.

"The greatest risk of desertification (7.6 out of 10 on a scale produced using various desertification indicators) is in the subtropical desert regions – North Africa, the countries of the Middle East, Australia, South West China and the western edge of South America", the scientist explains.

These are followed by areas such as the Mediterranean and the tropical and subtropical Steppes, both of which score 6.3 out of 10 on the scale of desertification risk. Coastal areas and the Prairies are at a lower risk of desertification, with 4 out of 10.

"Unsustainable land use may lead to soil becoming degraded. If this happens in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid regions, such as Spain, this degradation is known as desertification, and the effects can be irreversible, because they lead to areas becoming totally unproductive", says Núñez, who worked on the study with scientists from the Autonomous University of Barcelona and the National Technological University in Mendoza, Argentina.

In order to establish their methodology, the researchers used four biophysical variables that are the main causes of desertification – aridity, erosion, over-exploitation of aquifers and risk of fire. "This makes it possible to satisfactorily evaluate the impact of desertification of a particular human activity, and compare the impact of the same activity in a different place, or the impact of different activities carried out in the same place", explains the researcher. The methodology proposed by the scientists is currently being put to use in various case studies in Spain and Argentina.

Completing the study of desertification

The new research shows that using the LCA in combination with GIS makes it easier to adapt the LCA to study the impacts of land use, not only in the case of desertification, but also in terms of loss of biodiversity, erosion, or even water consumption.

This new methodology will provide the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) with an environmental impact category that will make it possible to measure "the desertification potential caused by any human activity", adds Núñez.

The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a scientific methodology that objectively analyses the environmental impacts of an activity or process, taking in the full cycle, from extraction of raw materials right through to management of the waste generated at the end of this material's useful life.


Núñez, Montserrat; Civit, Bárbara; Muñoz, Pere; Arena, Alejandro Pablo; Rieradevall, Joan; Anton, Assumpció. "Assessing potential desertification environmental impact in life cycle assessment" International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 15(1): 67-78, enero de 2010.

SINC | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Receding glaciers in Bolivia leave communities at risk
20.10.2016 | European Geosciences Union

nachricht UM researchers study vast carbon residue of ocean life
19.10.2016 | University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>