GEOG101 Introduction To Geography

Table of Contents


Write a brief paper that includes all the following.

What is desertification?

To research a particular area that is currently being affected by desertification, choose the following:

It is located where?

Which climatic area is it associated to (Koppen System)?

What kind of climate was it associated in the past (ie.

What was it like thousands of years ago? What changes have they experienced?

What are the scientific reasons for desertification occurring here?

What/who is the encroachment impacting (ie.

Are there any people, animals, plants, etc. living there?

How severe is the effect (ie.

How severe are people/organisms affected? Why is it a problem? How fast?

What are the steps being taken to stop or combat desertification? How are people dealing with it?


According to the United Nations, desertification refers to the destruction of land in dry areas. It can be caused by a number of factors including climatic changes and human activity.

More than 1 billion people worldwide depend on dry land ecosystems for their livelihood.

52 percent of the land used for agriculture has been severely or significantly affected.

Desertification has also affected arid lands in North America.

One of the most affected areas in the United States by desertification is the Sand Hills region, western Nebraska.

This is the largest active dune field in Western Hemisphere with dunes up to 20 miles long and 400 feet tall.

These dunes date back to the Pleistocene Epoch, a geologic period that spanned between 10,000 and 1.8 million years ago (NASA TV).

The dunes were formed by Pleistocene Glaciers by wind-blown sands originating from the Rocky Mountains.

The Sand Hills are considered semi-arid because they have low precipitation, sandy soils, and high evaporation rates.

The ground water created wetlands and springs between the dunes.

The Sand Hills’ vegetation is what plays the largest role in the solidity and strength of the dunes.

The Sand Hills are home to more than 720 plant species.

The sand dunes could be reactivated, which would have potential repercussions, including destruction of grazing land, transportation routes, fertile cultivated ground, and the desolation or loss of wetlands, which would severely affect wildlife.

The current grazing land covers 95% of the dunes. (U.S. Geological Survey Programs, Nebraska).

Because of the sandy soils, the Sand Hills are mostly used for grazing. Crop agriculture has never been able to thrive in the Sand Hills.

Climate change is currently threatening the Sand Hills.

Scientists predict that the average temperature will rise in the coming century.

Climate experts from the University of Nebraska predict that there will be less precipitation but more storms with higher chances of flooding and washouts.

Floods could cause flooding to the roosting sites of whooping cranes, which migrate from Texas to Nebraska each spring and autumn.

The ecosystem of the Sand Hills will be affected by this.

Many wetlands were drained by landowners in the early 1900s to make it possible for cattle to cut hay, especially in winter.

As water was not being taken in by the wetlands, it also destroyed the cushioning function of the wetlands.

Scientists believe that this is the scientific explanation for desertification. (Herrmann).

It has seen many changes over the years due to the low vegetation and high soil erosion risk.

Row crop agriculture has also contributed towards the desertification and erosion of the Sand Hills.

Current irrigation has led to the creation of wet areas by pumping water out of the ground.

There are many ways to stop Nebraska’s desertification process.

Holistic Management is one of the options.

Holistic Management is a way to treat cattle as herbivores, and plan for their care.

This method is used on around 40 million acres worldwide. It was developed by Allan Savory, an African rancher, and first implemented in 1992 at a ranch in Zimbabwe. (Schwartz).

If landowners are willing to abandon their old ranching practices, this idea can be used to revive large areas of grasslands.

Before the advent of modern ranching techniques, grasslands were already flourishing.

Large herds of herbivores roamed the land, reviving it and taking small bites to encourage root growth. They also walked on the soil, allowing for proper germination and fertilization of the ground with their excrement.

All of these processes have been hampered by the fencing of grasslands.

This idea received positive reception in America and is making significant progress.

Holistic Management can reverse the damage done to Sand Hills by humans, according to environmentalists.

Holistic Management, in addition to reclaiming the grassland and keeping it fertile, absorbs additional carbon from the atmosphere. This helps keep the soil fertile while reducing climate change.

The world is suffering from desertification.

Humanity must unite to fight this threat to the environment and its future.

Earth Observatory.

21 April 2017

21 April 2017

Herrmann, S. and Hutchinson C. “The changing contexts in the desertification debate.”

Journal of arid development 63 (2005): 538-555.


NASA Administrator.

23 March 2008.

23 March 2008.

Schwartz, Judith D. Christian Science Monitor.

24 October 2011.

21 April 2017

U.S. Geological Survey Programs for Nebraska

21 April 2017

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