Desertification and Drought

Authored by: Victor R. Squires

Handbook of Drought and Water Scarcity

Print publication date:  July  2017
Online publication date:  August  2017

Print ISBN: 9781498731027
eBook ISBN: 9781315404219
Adobe ISBN:


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Both desertification and drought are ill-defined concepts, as will be explained here. A significant problem militating against clearer understanding of desertification as a tangible process relates to its confused relationship with the terms “drought,” “climatic variation,” “climate change,” and “climatic fluctuation,” which are all used interchangeably in the literature. Some clarification of these terms is necessary as climate is inherently variable at all scales. Confusion also arises in the literature relating to the corresponding adaptive vegetation changes that the cyclicity of rainfall imposes on the plant community vis-à-vis negative conditions imposed on vegetation as a result of sustained anthropogenic activity. Both cyclical (climatic) and anthropogenic changes are evident in most drylands worldwide. However, the difficulty of differentiating between the effects of normal cyclical changes and anthropogenic changes has led to unreasonable attempts to exclude vegetative indicators from studies of desertification.

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