Disappearing drylands spell trouble says UN
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
March 21, 2006
47% of the Earth's land area is drylands. This includes arid and semi-arid zones like Africa's Sahara and the Horn of Africa; savannahs like the cerrado of Brazil, Eurasian steppes and the North American Great Plains; and Mediterranean landscapes like those found in California and Europe. These ecosystems receive very erratic rainfall, making them especially vulnerable to drought and catastrophic flooding. Despite their fragile nature, drylands are key to the livelihoods of almost 2 billion people as well as countless species.
Photo by R. Butler
The UN says the urgency of these issues makes it imperative to set take specific actions to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by the year 2010. These include reducing overgrazing in delicate ecosystems, cutting pollutants generated by intensive agriculture, slowing the conversion of grassland and savannah systems to agriculture and urban settlement, controlling invasive species alien to these ecosystems, and helping to build institutions that alleviate poverty by enabling the poor to realize "sustainable livelihoods."
These, and other ideas for conserving natural areas, are presently being discussed at the Convention on Biological Diversity summit in Curitiba, Brazil. More than 3000 delegates and 100 government ministers in charge of biodiversity have gathered to assess the outlook for Earth's species.
This article used information from press materials provided by the UN.