Home 1. Study site contexts & goals DESIRE's study sites Compilation & synthesis of study site descriptions

Compilation & synthesis of study site descriptions Print
General information

The DESIRE Study sites represent various locations across the world and vary largely in size from less than 100 km² to several thousand km², but the majority is in the order of a few hundred km². The main reasons for selecting the sites are among other things: presence of previous research, representativeness, “hot spot” of desertification/degradation problems and occurrence and/or potential for successful implementation of mitigation and preventive strategies.

A data availability questionnaire was filled in by all study sites and shows that a wealth of relevant data is available, though in widely varying formats and scales.


Bio-physical description

Available natural resources vary greatly in the different study sites, as can be expected with their geographical distribution, but also have some elements in common. Precipitation is rather low and especially unequally distributed and in several sites irrigation is practiced. Major land uses are permanent and semi-permanent agriculture, and grazing.

The strength of many of these practices is that they are well established, traditional systems that have proved to work under the prevailing conditions. However, these are under increasing pressure by population growth, market pressures, urbanisation, and agricultural intensification / overgrazing (though sometimes land abandonment and agricultural extensification are causing degradation as well). The major degradation problems listed are erosion by water and wind, salinization, biological degradation and wildfires. Conservation measures are applied in many of the sites and range from rather heavy investment structural measures (e.g. terracing) to low-cost simple practices, such as contour ploughing or area closure or fencing.


Socio-economic description

Age distribution is uneven in many sites due to ex-migration of younger people. Also general depopulation in rural areas leads to land abandonment, which starts a vicious cycle of more degradation (e.g. lack of maintenance of conservation measures), which again results in more land abandonment.

More dependency on off-farm income also leads to lower investments in agriculture and sustainable land management. Land fragmentation is also a problem in several sites.


Institutional and political setting

In most sites local or national laws exist but implementation is often ineffective. The EU Common Agricultural Policy has some positive impacts, but also promotes the cultivation of unsuitable land in other places. A lack of cross-sectoral planning and collaboration is a very common problem. Where conservation laws or policies exist, their enforcement is sometimes weak.

Inadequate extension services and low presence of govt. institutions are mentioned for several sites, but sometimes these gaps are filled by NGOs.


Relevant end-users / stakeholder groups (at all levels)

Among the major stakeholders listed for the study sites are NRM Institutions, land users, NGO’s, policy makers. Their interests however are sometimes conflicting.


Past and on-going projects

In most if not all sites various projects focusing on desertification, land degradation and/or sustainable land management have been taking place or are still on-going. These range from specific research activities to larger application-oriented projects. Various sites have been involved in other major global or regional desertification projects such as MEDALUS or DESERTLINKS.


More details ... download the full report

WP1.2 Compilation & synthesis of study site descriptions [18.26 MB]




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The DESIRE project was 
co-funded by the
European Commission,
Global Change and
Contract no: 037046 GOCE

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