This is part of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment report Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Desertification Synthisis.
Core Writing Team: Zafar Adeel, Uriel Safriel, David Niemeijer, and Robin White
Extended Writing Team: Grégoire de Kalbermatten, Michael Glantz, Boshra Salem, Bob Scholes, Maryam Niamir-Fuller, Simeon Ehui, and Valentine Yapi-Gnaore
Review Editors: José Sarukhán and Anne Whyte (co-chairs) and MA Board of Review Editors
Desertification is a concept used to grasp the more acute forms of the degradation of land-based ecosystems and the consequences of the loss of their services. Drought is the silent killer—the natural catastrophe that is only too easily forgotten. Experience shows that awareness of the implications of desertification and drought must be expanded and that policy orientation must be backed by robust monitoring systems and related findings.
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment has made a significant and much appreciated contribution to this end. It carefully presents the critical importance of functional ecosystems for human well-being and sustainable economic growth. The case is particularly powerful for the drylands of the world. Populations in arid, semiarid, and dry subhumid climatic zones, which define the field of intervention of the UNCCD, are greatly affected by environmental vulnerability and poverty.
The Desertification Synthesis, based on a sound summary of scientific evidence, states that desertification must imperatively be addressed to meet the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations. Desertification must be fought at all levels, but this battle must ultimately be won at the local level. There is evidence that success is possible. All the while, this report makes it now clearer that this phenomenon is embedded in a global chain of causality and that its impact is felt far beyond the boundaries of affected areas. Desertification contributes significantly to climate change and biodiversity loss.
Diverse views exist on the complex relationship between climatic and anthropogenic causal factors of desertification. Work remains to be done in order to enhance the knowledge base that should produce policy-relevant findings and facilitate informed decision-making. The Committee on Science and Technology of the UNCCD should be able to contribute in this respect. In the meantime, this assessment portrays the magnitude of the challenge and invites the international community to focus on needed action.
Bonn, 19 February 2005
Hama Arba Diallo
Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification
Disclaimer: This chapter is taken wholly from, or contains information that was originally written for the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment as published by the World Resources Institute. The content has not been modified by the Encyclopedia of Earth.
This is a chapter from Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Desertification Synthesis (full report).
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