Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


A tool to assess the risk of desertification

Researchers from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM) have established a method based on dynamic simulation models to define the indicators for the risk of desertification of a particular region in the long term, thus forecasting whether or not the current situation is sustainable.

Using a general model of desertification, researchers from the Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingenieros Agrónomos of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid managed by Javier Ibáñez have developed indicators that predict the future state of an area and hence the sustainability of the current situation. This general desertification model is used as a virtual laboratory where it is possible to reproduce the different syndromes of desertification, such as overgrazing and overdrafting of aquifers.

Desertification has been described as the biggest environmental and socioeconomic problem faced by many countries all over the world. In arid regions, the cause of the problem is mainly the way the land is used. The definition that is most extended and that was approved by the United Nations in 1994 is that desertification is the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid, sub-humid and dry areas resulting from different factors such as climatic variations and human activities.

There are two ways to fight desertification. One of them consists in cancelling out the effects it causes, which is very expensive considering all the investments required to restore lost fertility to the ground. The other is to anticipate the problem, since during its initial stages it can still be managed and turned around. In this sense, the diverse existing methods seek to detect the early symptoms of degradation.

The traditional indicators, based on physical measurements such as plant density and erosion rates, are precise but have two serious inconveniences. Firstly, since they measure characteristics of desertification, they give information about an on going process without providing information about the long term result of such processes. The second drawback is that they often focus on very particular characteristics of the landscape, such as certain plant species, making these techniques hard to export to other territories.

The proposed tool aims to complete the information offered by the conventional indicators with simulations that would virtually reproduce the threatened environments, allowing for the development of specific indicators that would sound an alarm when critical thresholds representing long term desertification effects are reached.

In particular, the study carried out by the researchers from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid consists of the development of a set of generic equations that represent different desertification syndromes. The model, constructed by means of systems dynamics, links physical and socioeconomic processes. This implies that phenomenons like aquifer salinisation or soil degradation can be studied along with the benefits for the farmers and their opportunity costs.

The procedure is born with the goal of estimating the risk of desertification in any part of the world, including regions where field data is non existent and it is for this purpose that it has been designed. Up to now, it has been applied to the field of Dalías (Almería) and its system of coastal aquifers, the grazing grounds of Lagadas (Greece) or the oases at Morocco and Tunisia.

Currently this method is being used to study the erosion of the olive plantations in Andalusia and their impact of livestock in grazing lands in Senegal.

(*) ECOLOGICAL MODELLING 213 (2): 180-190 MAY 10 2008: “Assessing desertification risk using system stability condition analysis”

Ibáñez, Javier; Martínez Valderrama, Jaime; Puigdefabregas, Juan

Ciencia y Sociedad | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

nachricht Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

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...

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

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>