Chapter 4.4: Desertification

In spite of its broad geographic scale and catastrophic environmental effects, desertification receives comparatively little attention in much of the developed world.  Desertification is the process in which fertile land gradually transitions to desert, typically because of human activities that disturb fragile ecosystems delicately balanced in marginal climates. Common where water is scarce and human populations alter natural environments, this phenomenon threatens approximately 40% of the Earth’s land surface. Many of the areas affected by or vulnerable to desertification lie in developing nations where the loss of fertile land can be a severe blow to poor populations least able to cope with such changes. 

Background Materials:

General discussion of desertification:

For some background on the Aral Sea, visit

Textbook References and Links:

Exercise 1: Millennium Ecosystem Analysis Desertification Synthesis:

Exercise 3: Xu et al. article:

Exercise 5:  Google Earth exercise. To download and install Google Earth,visit

Exercise 6: Tang et al.

View the YouTube video on the China's Green Wall at

Exercise 8:  African Great Green Wall project:

Exercise 9:  Dr. Savory’s TED talk on grazing and desertification:

Wildlife News blog by Ralph Maughan:

Carter review article:

Downloadable data and files:

Exercise 1:  Desertification.pdf

Exercise 2:  Landsat Lamchin.txt

Exercise 3: Xu 2014.pdf

Exercise 6:  Tang 2014.pdf

Exercise 8: Great Green Wall.pdf

Exercise 9:  Carter 2014.pdf