German S. Kust, Olga V. Andreeva Institute of Ecological Soil Science/Moscow State University. Moscow, RussiaAssessment and Geographical Zoning of Desertification in Russian Federation Bonn, Germany UNCCD 2nd Scientific Conference, 9-12 April 2013
2nd UNCCD Scientific Conference theme:“Economic assessment of desertification, sustainable land management and resilience of arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas”Lionel Robbins (1932): “Economics is a science which studies human behaviour as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses”Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary, United Nations Convention to CombatDesertification (2012): “The 2nd UNCCD Scientific Conference offers a unique opportunity to transform our understanding of the real value of drylands, and associatedecosystems services, by assessing the risk of inaction and the potential positive economic impact of our actions and choices”
Russia is huge country with a belt of desertificationaffected or risky areas of 1 220 000 sq. km or 7.2% ofthe territory of Russian Federation. Almost 80% ofprimary agricultural production is produced here.
Peculiarities of desertification phenomenon in Russia Variability of ecosystems, desertification causes and trends:There are no arid regions. Desertification affects sub-arid and dry sub-humidregions: forest steppes, meadow steppes, and even southern taiga forests.The sub-humid belt of Russia has the following specific features:a great proportion of unirrigated fields in arable lands,specific degradation of high-humic soils,vast areas of sodic soils and soil alkalization,natural water table rise in areas of dry agriculture,dryness of Siberian chernozems,soil compaction,suffosion and thermokarst,big area withgullies,vast poorly drained areas,under-flooding caused by the rising Caspian Sea level.
Peculiarities of desertification phenomenon in Russia Socioeconomic factorsrelatively high density of rural population,relatively low heat and energy supply in rural areas,high-humic soils,poor profitability of agriculture,decrease in the commercial value of land because of soil covercomplexity,plowing of thin soils,plowing of sodic and salinized soils,destruction of valuable plant communities,low standards of irrigation system construction and maintenance,soil compaction caused by the use of heavy agricultural vehicles,sociopolitical initiatives resulting in nearly complete loss of farminglands (e.g. plowing of thin soils during the Virgin Lands Campaign). These factors are tentatively named sociotechnogenic. We apply the termtechno- genic to emphasize that lands are degraded in the absence of a naturalrisk to desertification.
Desertification causes most common in Russia :Water table rise as a result of construction of water facilities, long-term irrigation orextension of irrigated areas, and of natural geologic and/or climatic processes;Irrigation with mineralised water;Geochemical migration of salts to the margins of irrigated lands;Drying of land surface caused by water table fall as a result of artificial riverregulation or construction of drainage systems and of natural geologic and/or climaticprocessesPasture degradation in fragile lands (saline, alkalised, sandy, steep slopes, etc)Plowing of fragile soils;Use of heavy agricultural vehicles on arable lands;Steppe firesDeforestationTechnogenic and urbogenic degradation of soil and vegetation.Progradation phenomena associated with modern processes of natural andartificial recovery of previously degraded lands :Natural recovery of vegetation on abandoned lands and degraded pasturelands;An increase in pastures productivity due to reclamation;Recovery of forest vegetation;Soil desalinisation and dealkalinization as a result of amelioration.
Desertification trends most common in Russia :Water erosion (incl. gullies and surface wash)Formation of loose and deflatable surfaces (result of wind erosion)SalinizationAlkalinizationOvercompaction of soilsUnder-floodingDecrease of productivity of natural vegetation (mainly on pastures and inforests).Progradation trends:Steppe vegetation recovery;Recovery of forests and shrubs;Desalinization and dealkalinization of soil
Actual desertification processes (by rates) km2 % of mapped areaWeak 327118 20.75Moderate 468318 29.71Severe 211255 13.40Very severe 74338 4.58Actual desertification processes (by trends)Water erosion 532593 33.80Formation of loose and deflatable surfaces 290958 18.47Salinization 103396 6.55Alkalinization 154080 9.79Overcompaction 1687 0.11Underflooding 14867 0.94Decrease of productivity of natural vegetation 78228 4.96Technogenic degradation 14448 0.92Other areas under desertification risksWeak 71599 4.54Moderate 66309 4.21Severe 10905 0.70Very severe 1757 0.11ProgradationSteppe vegetation recovery 1900 0.12Recovery of forests and shrubs 74550 4.73Desalinization and dealkalinization 22796 1.45
The Mosaic of space images for desertification assessment
NeRIS methodology for automatic processing of space data and mapping (A.Savel’ev, D.Dobrynin et al.)Determination of Determination ofland classes for vegetation classesNothern Caspian for Baikal regionregion Determination of desertification classes for Southern part of Western Siberia
Desertification/Land degradation map of Russia (1:1 500 000) (Kalmykia fragment)
Desertification map of Russian Federation Types of lands Area km2 %Total mapping area 1576093 100Lands prone to desertification (actual desertification) 1190257 75.52Other lands under desertification risk (potential threats) 169111 10.73Lands not prone to desertification 14606 0.93Other lands under progradation 99246 6.30Lands not included in consideration (water basins and 102873 6.53mountainous regions)
Geographical zoning of desertificationThe scheme includes 15 desertification provinces subdivided into 58 districtsdiffer in combinations of desertification risks, trends and rates, and inregional peculiarities of land use.
Criteria to determine desertification provincesand districts:Types (trends) of desertification and theirvariabilityDesertification causesRate of land degradationType of economic activity and correspondinglosses of natural resourcesCosts of restoration and rehabilitation measures Costs of life supportBiogeochemical peculiaritiesMedico-geographical peculiarities
POLICY ORIENTED RECOMMENDATIONSThe problem of desertification is multidimensional. Effects of land degradationare associated with a decrease and loss of biological and economic productivity.Desertification generates numerous social and demographic problems not onlyat sites of desertification but also in neighboring regions (labor force decline;decreasing birth rate; and worsening living standards, jobs emigration, etc)The medico-biological and medico-geographical environment worsendramatically in desertified regions (electrolyte balance, cancer, worsening ofpotable water quality, gastrointestinal and genitourinary tumors)Main economic losses include:• loss of gross agricultural and livestock production,•decrease in industrial production depending on agricultural raw materials,•decrease in real income and living standards of the population,• increase in investments and expenses per unit of production,•Increase in costs of restoration and conservation,•quantitative and qualitative loss of natural resources (soil and potable waterreserves),• cost of life support (housing, health services, potable water purification,transport, municipal requirements, etc.),•Cost of unemployment assistance.
General evaluation of desertification cost in RussiaWith the current rate of loss of productive pasture and arable landsin dry regions of Russia, the conservative estimate of the annual losscaused by worsening of the quality of land resources only (notincluding the loss of agricultural production, associated industry,cost of recovery, social expenses, or health services) is no less than40— 50 million US dollars.The overall annual environmental and economic damage caused bydesertification of agricultural lands in the arid belt of Russia isassessed at no less than 1.0 -1.5 billion US dollars over the last 20—25 years.
The top-priorities in combating desertification:Indicators for prediction and monitoring of desertification and droughtsRanking and assessment of regions prone to desertification; natural andsocioeconomic zoning of desertificationEconomic motivating methods and encouragement to combatdesertification and droughtsDevelopment of technologies adapted to various natural, economic, andsocial conditionsMeasures for the protection of settlements, including agroforestryDevelopment and application of measures to prevent human andlivestock diseasesKnowledge management, awareness, and information exchange;Restoration and development of traditional indigenous methods ofenvironmental land use
CONCLUSIONDesertification mapping and zoning is an effective toolto define major threats and promote decision supportand knowledge management, especially in big countrieswith different manifestations and causes ofdesertification phenomenon.The first-time made desertification map of RussianFederation is presented, as well as geographical zoningprepared for economic purposes.A full set of policy oriented recommendations isproposed