Desertification: what it is and how to fix it

Why conventional "solutions" fail to reverse desertification; proven methods that work.

Index of articles and links

Desertification is the process by which formerly productive land (grasslands, savannas, forests, and farmland) becomes desert.

Desertification is an age-old problem. Since writing was invented, people have lamented landscape damage and urged better care of the land. Despite the march of science and billions spent to combat desertification, the world's deserts continue to grow. Desertification is now happening faster than at any previous time in human history.

Tony & Jerrie Tipton
gullied dirt
Conventional techniques failed to revegetate this former gold mine, which had no topsoil.

After broadcasting seed, feeding hay to cattle jump-started soil-building processes.

tall grass
The restored land outperformed some nearby hayfields. On EcoResults! website. How it works

According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, desertification affects about 1/6 of the world's population and 70% of the world's drylands, amounting to 1/4 of the planet's total land area.

What is desertification?

A one-page primer on desertification by Peter Donovan. 2002.

Take the desertification quiz and test your knowledge.

Erosion slide show. Erosion is a major sign and consequence of desertification.

Is overgrazing caused by too much livestock, or something else? Bonus quiz at bottom. By Peter Donovan, 2002.

Landscape brittleness (articles). Brittleness is essential to understanding why desertification happens and why conventional "solutions" fail.

The American Sahara: The New Desert Beneath Our Feet by Thomas J. Elpel. Good article with pictures and links. On Wildflowers and Weeds website.

Reversing desertification

How can grazing heal land? Grazers and grasslands evolved together. When acting as they do in nature, grazers perform important ecosystem functions. By Joy Livingwell.

Healing damaged land (section) features successful projects reversing desertification. Lots of photos.

Revegetating soilless land (articles). Even places with no soil at all can be reclaimed.