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Desertification

Desertification In North America

Arid lands in parts of North America are among those severely affected by desertification; almost 90% of such habitats are considered to be moderately to severely desertified. The arid and semi-arid lands of the western and southwestern United States are highly vulnerable to this kind of damage. The perennial grasses and shrubs that dominate arid-land vegetation provide good forage for cattle, but overstocking leads to overgrazing and degradation of the natural vegetation cover, which, in turn, contribute to erosion and desertification. In addition, excessive withdrawals of groundwater to irrigate crops and supply cities is exceeding the ability of the aquifers to replenish, resulting in a rapid decline in height of the water table. Groundwater depletion by overpumping of the sandstone Ogalalla aquifer in the Southwestern United States has contributed to desertification in Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Moreover, the salts left behind on the soil surface after the irrigation water has evaporated results in land degradation through salinization, creating toxic conditions for crops and contaminating groundwater. Salination resulting from decades of heavy irrigation has compromised the soil quality in California's San Joaquin Valley, which produces much of the produce sold in the United States.

Studies of pre-industrial, aboriginal people in the western and southwestern United States suggest even small numbers of people could induce long-lasting ecological changes, including desertification. For example, native Americans reliant on mesquite beans for food planted mesquite throughout the Chihuahuan Desert of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and northern Mexico. Stands of mesquite developed around campsites and watering holes, and replaced the local grasses and other vegetation. The Pueblan culture, which flourished in the southwestern United States beginning around A.D. 800, used the meager stands of trees for housing material, resulting in local deforestation.


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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Dependency - The Intellectual Roots Of Dependency Thinking to Dirac equationDesertification - The Sahelian Drought And United Nations Convention To Combat Desertification, Desertification In North America, Processes Of Desertification