The Living World
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Impacts of Human Activity on Hot Deserts

As is the case with many of Earth’s ecosystems, human activity threatens their balance and function.

Human activities, such as mining and those contributing to climate change, cause dramatic effects that harm the biodiversity of hot deserts. Climate change threatens the conditions that enable hot deserts to function as they do. However, climate change is just one of the many factors that are causing desertification.

Desertification

Desertification is the process of land turning into desert due to the declining quality of the soil. Human activity often accelerates the rate of desertification, which can harm local vegetation upon which food webs rely.

Causes of desertification

  • Growing populations in tourist and mining sites put greater pressure on the already limited resources in hot deserts. Wood and water supplies are further diminished by increasing populations, leaving less for the ecosystem.
  • Due to growing populations, more land is used for farming livestock. Overgrazing by increased livestock numbers leads to more vegetation being consumed. As a result, the soil becomes vulnerable to erosion.
  • As wood becomes a critical resource, trees are felled for cooking and fuel. The removal of trees, whose roots hold the soil together, accelerates soil erosion.
  • Climate change is leading to a global increase in temperature, including in hot desert environments. The last 50 years have seen less precipitation in hot deserts and an increase in temperatures.

Strategies to prevent or reduce desertification

  • Humans can plant more trees to replace the ones they cut down. As the trees grow, their roots can strengthen the soil and prevent erosion.
  • Farmers are encouraged to farm more sustainably by growing a variety of crops and rearing livestock. Animal manure can help grow crops and fertilise the soil, improving its quality.
  • Managing water is becoming more crucial. Finding efficient ways to store it during the wet season for use in the dry season is necessary for the management of resources.

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