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Desertification

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Desertification : Exploding the Myth
coverThe Last Ranch : A Colorado Community and the Coming Desert (Harvest Book) by Sam Bingham. 

 Colorado's San Luis Valley is a land of broad, expansive range ringed by massive mountains that is visited only rarely by rain, about eight inches a year. It is also a place where a small enclave of ranchers struggle to make a living, fighting not only the elements but a host of forces--politics, the pressures of modern culture and technology, the marketplace--that conspire to put an end to their generations-old community. For a year beginning in 1992, naturalist and magazine writer Sam Bingham lived in the valley. In The Last Ranch he brings to life both the people of the valley and a flock of international characters who have targeted the San Luis Valley for exploitation. At the center of the story are Donnie and Karen Whitten, high school sweethearts who live in a doublewide trailer with their three children, and who come to symbolize the tenacity of the residents of the valley as they endure against very long odds.

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Desertification in the World
According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, Desertification has been defined as LAND DEGRADATION IN ARID, SEMI-ARID AND DRY SUB-HUMID AREAS RESULTING FROM VARIOUS FACTORS, INCLUDING CLIMATIC VARIATIONS AND HUMAN ACTIVITIES. 

This concept was negotiated during the Rio Earth Summit and is, today, internationally accepted. It may be understood at two levels: 

1) With respect to climatic variations, drought is a typical phenomenon of the arid regions ;

2) With respect to the actions of land degradation that are induced by man, they should be understood as having at least five components, as proposed by FAO : 

a) Degradation of animal population and vegetation (biotic degradation or loss of biodiversity) in large areas of the semi-arid region due to hunting and timber extraction;  

b) Soil degradation, that may occur as a result of a physical effect (water or wind erosion and compactation caused by use of heavy mechanization) or by chemical effects (salinization or sodification); 

c) Degradation of the surface hydrologic conditions as a result of loss of vegetation cover;

d) Degradation of the geohydrological conditions (underground waters) resulting from changes in the recharge conditions;

e) Degradation of economic infrastructure and quality of life of human settlements. 

This definition was adopted by UNEP, and based on it, the areas susceptible to desertification were defined.  As may be clearly seen, the susceptible areas are those subjected to arid climates (arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid). 

In the areas susceptible to Desertification and Drought, live some 900 million people, and of these around 200 million are already affected by this process, according to data from the "Status of Desertification and Implementation of the U.N. Plan of Action to Combat Desertification" report elaborated by UNEP. 

 

Logging
Clearcut logging practices are a major contributor to the process of desertification.

 

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