Friday, June 17, 2005

Report charts news the expansion of the world's deserts.

The report, titled Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Desertification Synthesis, is the third in a series of seven detailing the findings of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a four-year, US$22-million stocktake of the world's biological resources. It covers the world's drylands--41% of the planet's land surface, including everything from the 'dry-sub-humid' regions of eastern Mediterranean croplands, to full-blown 'hyper-arid' deserts such as the Sahara.

While much is still unkown about the world's drylands, one thing is clear, according to Zafar Adeel, one of the report's main authors; "Desertification has emerged as an immense global problem that affects a lot of people." Dust storms from the Gobi and Saharan deserts reach as far as North America.

But the biggest problem is the loss of farmland as the land dries up, a problem made worse by the fact that many of the areas most at risk are home to the world's poorest people.

Walter Reid, director of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, estimates it might take US$100 billion to invest properly in dryland areas. "That's substantial. But relative to other areas where public money is spent it's not such a big deal," says Reid.


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