Intensive agriculture and livestock farming increase soil aridity, thus leading to soil degradation. However, the risk of desertification is considerably aggravated by climate change. The World Atlas of Desertification is a valuable source of information and data about soil degradation and contains a series of specific maps for each of the causes of desertification.
On the one hand, soils tend to become drier when the temperature increases, catalysing degradation processes. On the other hand, climate change can increase salinisation: in some cases, the aquifers can be subjected to seawater infiltration, which is then used to irrigate the land. With the lack of rainfall, irrigating fields with salt water leads to a drastic depletion of organic matter. Other anthropogenic causes worth mentioning are pollution and the misuse of potentially fertile land for cementification and urbanisation.
Contrary to popular belief, these phenomena are universal as they occur within the same atmosphere: this means that desertification does not only affect Africa, Latin America or Australia but also affects the European continent. Vast land areas in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania suffer from an exceptionally high risk of desertification.
In the beloved Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia, as well as in the Dry Corridor in Guatemala, “just one more degree would upset the entire ecosystem, leading to desertification and loss of soil resilience,” explains Guido.