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Desertification and Theories of Desertification Control: A discussion of Chinese and European concepts

  • Shi Guangchang
Publiceringsår: 2003
Språk: Engelska
Sidor: 94-104
Publikation/Tidskrift/Serie: Proceedings of the China-EU Workshop on Integrated Approach to Combat Desertification
Dokumenttyp: Konferensbidrag
Förlag: Ministry of Science and Technology of China, Chuina Association for International Science3 and Technology Cooperation


The word “desertification” was introduced in 1949 by the French scientist Aubreville in his report “Climats, forêts et désertification de l´Afrique tropicale”. The concept, however, was discussed earlier by European and American scientists in terms of increased sand movements, desiccation, desert and Sahara encroachment and man made deserts.

Desertification, at the beginning of last century, meant the spreading (expansion) of deserts or desert-like (non productive or very low productive) conditions from existing deserts into non-desert areas close to the desert margins. The symptoms of the phenomena were often related to sand movement and encroachment into oasis and desert margins. Aubreville also stated in 1949 that there are real deserts being born, under our very eyes, in the 700-1500 mm annual rainfall areas.

One school favored the idea of a postglacial long term climate change (desiccation) as a major driving force causing desertification. Others stressed the importance of human impact. The human impact was expressed in terms of bad management of the natural resources including over cutting, overgrazing, over cultivation and misuse of water.

Since then, different concepts of desertification have developed and been discussed over and over again by scientists, politicians and the international aid and development society. Important international events were UNCOD in Nairobi 1977, UNCED in Rio de Janeiro 1992 followed up by the UNCCD adopted in 1994 and entering into force in 1996.

Mitigation approaches and control success or failure varies with concepts of causes and consequences. This is exemplified through a discussion of recent and relict desertification and mitigation cases in Europe, China and Africa.

Conclusion: The causes, consequences and methods of control of desertification cannot be generalized but are site specific. Every site and case needs its own diagnosis, based on an integrated and systemic research approach, before the right cure can be identified and implemented.


  • Physical Geography
  • Desertification concepts
  • control theories
  • Africa
  • China
  • Europe


China-EU Workshop on Integrated Approach to Combat Desertification

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