2 Sustainable Solutions for Desertification

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Desertification poses a major human-made problem for our planet. Here are two sustainable solutions that could help reverse the problem…

One of the most severe impacts of human industry on the planet we live on is desertification. This occurs when previously healthy ecosystems in semi-arid climates become barren deserts, and is usually the result of human intervention destroying the naturally existing system of checks and balances in the environment. Examples include the burning or chemical removal of desert plants (and animal habitat) to plant grass for cattle grazing, over-grazing, or chemically supported mono-crop industrial agriculture operations.

While this may sound like a minor problem to some people, in fact, desertification causes a number of problems for our planet, including the disruption or disappearance of wildlife species, erosion of valuable topsoil leading to runoff of agricultural chemicals into our waterways, and heating of the atmosphere due to large exposed areas of ground which reflect more heat.

Fortunately, there are a number of sustainable solutions for desertification, many of which would not only help to reverse these problems, but also generate additional income for both the public and private sectors.

Here are two interesting approaches:

Storm-Water Management

In a traditional sense storm-water management is a term used by engineers to describe mitigation strategies for controlling nuisance storm-water inundation to major flooding within human settlements.  Under these scenarios water is looked at as a problem that could create safety issues for people or cause damage to property…

Some people, however, are beginning to recognize storm-water as a resource, and instead of constructing infrastructure treatments to quickly eliminate the water, they are constructing solutions to harvest the water, which can be used to irrigate either natural or man made landscapes.  On a much broader level, the same strategies can be implemented to harvest enough water to irrigate scores of acres thereby, (1) activating a germination response in latent seeds, and (2) increasing the growth of established vegetation.  The vegetative response created from simple water harvesting techniques would generate more plant life causing a regional impact to the local climate.  Benefits of this response include providing habitat for a greater diversity of wildlife, healing lands that have been impacted by construction activities, and eliminating conditions favorable to starting wildfires, all of which would be instrumental in reversing desertification

Holistic Management

For generations researches have concluded that both wild and domesticated grazing animals are a major cause of desertification, which is generally true.  What researches have failed to understand is that the grazing animals are not the problem.  The problem rather, is that they are not managed with respect to the land.  Prior to the adverse impacts of human intervention via agriculture, nature had developed a balanced system consisting of migrating grazing and predatory animals.

According to American pioneers, like Louis and Clark, grassland areas would be settled for only a few days by a herd of grazing animals.  By nature’s design, these herds had to migrate in large numbers to protect their lot from predatory attacks.  As a result of this migration pattern, the grassland would benefit from (1) “just right” grazing, (2) the application of nitrogen from animal urine and manure, and (3) hooves gently tilling the soil.  These benefits are nutriment implements that induce the grass to decay biologically thereby providing for healthier regrowth while the land is being rested during the gap in the migration cycle.

The current practices of land management that have been implemented since the beginning of conventional agriculture consist of either over grazing or no grazing also known as over rest.  Over grazing by livestock, such as cattle, sheep, and goats leave the soil bare with minimal chance for recovery due to the extreme daily changes in temperature within the soil microclimate.  No grazing or over rest causes hardened algae to form on the surface, which increases runoff and prevents plants from getting sufficient water.  Overtime, plants will decay via oxidation and the soil becomes bare for the same reasons already stated.  Both practices lead to the same end result of desertification.

Holistic Planned Grazing, or Management Intensive Grazing (MiG), gives rise to a planned grazing strategy that has been proven to reverse desertification.  This practice has worked in many arid and semi-arid regions of world where desertification has occurred.  This planned grazing approach is designed to mimic predator-prey migration patterns that existed prior to the advent of conventional agriculture.  This is a systemic approach that connects elements synergistically.

While consuming vegetation, grazing livestock, like their grazing animal ancestors, can fertilize with manure and till with hooves.  The two elements are (1) the land, and (2) the grazing livestock.  By managing the land with a specific graze and rest plan, the ecology will quickly improve.  There will be more plant diversity, creating habitat for a larger community of birds, insects, and soil life.  This response will provide more food for more grazing livestock after each rest period.

Read More at UrbanFarm.org


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