From Mesopotamia to the Nile Valley: Soil Degradation and Desertification

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From Mesopotamia to the Nile Valley: Soil Degradation and Desertification Desertification has many definitions, encompassing both the physical and social consequences of the transformation of land into desert-like conditions. In all cases, the impacts of human activity are indelibly linked to desertification. In 1977, the United Nations Conference on Desertification proposed a definition: "Desertification is the diminution or destruction of the biological potential of the land, and can lead ultimately to desert-like conditions. It is an aspect of widespread deterioration of ecosystems, and has diminished or destroyed the biological potential, i.e., plant and animal production, for multiple use purposes at a time when increased productivity is needed to support growing populations in quest of development." (Mainguet, 1994, 3) In addition, Monique Mainguet cites Kates et al. (1977) as noting that, "Unlike drought, which is usually a short-term diminution of available moisture, the physical processes involved in desertification are long-term, chronic, and pervasive" (1994, 2). Mainguet considers "soil deterioration as the most critical component of land degradation and, in the framework of irreversible land degradation, as the main factor of desertification" (1994, p. 151). Soil degradation "is expressed as water and wind erosion, salinization, loss of soil fertility, and soil compaction" (Dregne, 1985, p. 19). Changes to the physical, chemical and biological properties of soil may bring severe famine to a previous fertile area. Desertification has destroyed past civilizations, such North Mesopotamia, and is currently degrading vulnerable lands around the world, such as the Nile Valley of Egypt. The most important... ... middle of paper ... ... Hulme, Mike and Kelly, Mick, 1993, Exploring the Links Between Desertification and Climate Change: Environment (St. Louis), v. 35: 6, p. 4-11. Kishk, M. A., 1986, Land Degradation in the Nile Valley: Ambio, v. 15, p. 226-230. Mainguet, Monique, 1994, Desertification: Natural Background and Human Mismanagement: New York, Springer-Verlag, 314 p. Mitchell, D. J. and Fullen, M. A., 1994, Soil-Forming Processes on Reclaimed Desertified Land in North-Central China: In Millington, Andrew C., and Pye, Ken, eds., 1994, Environmental Change in Drylands: New York, John Wiley and Sons, p. 393-412. Sabadell, J. Eleonora, et al., 1982, Desertification in the United States: Washington, D. C., U. S. Government Printing Office, 277 p. Weiss, H., et al., 1993, The Genesis and Collapse of Third Millennium North Mesopotamian Civilization: Science, v. 261, p. 995-1004.

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