Action plans to combat desertification are undertaken in the long term
and require regular monitoring. Observatories have been created to carry
out measurements and collect data. Several stations perform observations
on farmed and non-farmed plots of land. For example, the UNESCO
MAB programme (Man and the Biosphere) studies the interaction between man
and nature and in particular, the impact of man on the environment through
the world network of biosphere
reserves, among others.
They have been established as permanent representative sites of research, training, biodiversity conservation and development support. The Sahara and Sahel Observatory (OSS) and its network of observatories and long term ecological monitoring, ROSELT, (Réseau d’observatoires de surveillance écologique à long terme) measure the biological potential of drylands around the Sahara. There are several sites to the north and south of the Sahara and in the Sahel.
The ROSELT Observatories perform three main duties:
Measuring the degradation
In order to measure land degradation as well as the advances made in combating desertification, quantitative and qualitative information needs to be made available on environmental and socio-economical factors. By taking advantage of this information, called indicators, scientists, organizations and governments can avoid duplication of efforts and save money, which could be deployed elsewhere.
An indicator is quantitative information that enables an evaluation of an activity or the development of a given situation (ie. the population growth in ten years) in view of better natural resources management for sustainable development.
Indicators have, for example, been created to measure water quality: the concentration of nitrates should not exceed 50 mg/l. a critical threshold beyond which human health can be affected. These base indicators help determine the progress made in combating desertification. They are employed in the evaluation, the follow-up and the prediction of effects of a given phenomenon or activity. The UNCCD explicitly recommends [Art.16] the study and use of indicators in the physical (climate, soil), biological (biodiversity), social (health, amenities) and economical (production, wealth) state.
By taking photographs over several years it is possible to determine the development of the vegetation so as to make decisions on those crops
to be favoured or avoided in case of drought.
Only computers are able to exploit the numerous measurements taken on desertification. Geographers and computer scientists have developed geographic information systems (GIS) to produce maps, photographic pictures and virtual images. They aim to rapidly present regional characteristics in a global dimension: progression of drought, rain, temperature, water availability, human amenities (villages, settlements), infrastructure (trails, roads), etc.
In class, organize the pupils into playing the roles of a mayor and his councillors.
You want to undertake a study on the situation of your environment (determine the factors that influence your environment) and need to define simple indicators in relation to combating desertification.
Think of 3 indicators that could be examined throughout the school year (i.e. weekly water consumption etc.)
Underline the following correct phrases:
• a NGO.
• an United Nations organization.
• involved in studying the relationship betwenn man and the environment.
• involved in the promotion of sustainable development.
• involved in financing projects
in developing countries.
Tell the story of an imaginary satellite 0X99
sent into space.
What does it photograph and study every day as it encircles Earth?
Draw a diagram of your nearby environment ie. between your village/town and your school. Mark on your drawing the points of interest as well as the fields, trees, watering points etc.
Show your drawing to older members of your family.
How has the surrounding area changed compared to when they were young?