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New Article Open Access: A composite method to identify desertification ‘hotspots’ and ‘brightspots’

Desertification has become one of the greatest environmental concerns of our planet. Implementation of the action plans for arresting land degradation and for employing rehabilitation measures over a large spatial scale is not feasible due to the amount of time, effort and cost involved.

However, if the ‘hotspots’, ‘brightspots’ and the ‘potential areas’ are identified, the task would be relatively easy. In this paper, a method is proposed to identify the pieces of degraded land with varying severity levels (in terms of ‘hotspots’, ‘brightspots’ and ‘potential areas’), using Bowen ratio, LST, Ra and NDVI. Although, the zone falls in the semi‐arid class, the microclimate analysis of the study area revealed high aridity.

Mapping, monitoring, assessment, and early warning of desertification are the basic requirements towards the formulation of strategies for preventing, arresting, and combating desertification. A number of methodologies are available for these purposes at global, national, and local scales.

The methods available and used for mapping and monitoring of desertification and land degradation at global, regional, and national scales can be broadly classified into two categories:

  • (a) indicator‐based methods and
  • (b) mapping of desertification processes/types directly through field survey or using satellite images 

The indicators used in desertification mapping and monitoring include vegetation cover, vegetation biomass, net primary production, land use/land cover, rain‐use efficiency, vegetation species composition, soil organic carbon stock, and ecosystem services. Many of these indicators can be derived from satellite images. However, the indicator‐based methods are often unable to identify the processes or types of land degradation, and hence, such an inventory may not be useful in making action plans for combating desertification. This is because the combating strategies are different for different land degradation processes.

The investigations revealed that around 49% of the study area falls under the category of ‘hotspots’ (with an error estimate of 13%) and another 49% as ‘brightspots’. The findings revealed that instead of targeting the entire area for implementation of the mitigation measures with the same efforts, it would be better to focus on the specific pieces of land (‘hotspots’) to optimally utilize the available resource.

Implementation of action plans towards arresting the degradation of land and taking rehabilitation measures, over large areas, is not feasible because of the huge amount of time, effort, and cost involved.

However, if :

  • the‘hotspots’ (areas where swift rehabilitation actions are required as land degradation is severe or the land is extremely vulnerable to desertification
  • the ‘brightspots’ (areas without significant land degradation or the areas that were formerly degraded/vulnerable but have been rehabilitated because of the effective implementation of the combating measures), and
  • the ‘potential areas’ (areas that bear the potential of getting degraded under significant changes) of desertification are identified, the task becomes relatively easy as these can be used to prioritize the areas to be taken up for the implementation of combating measures.

Therefore, it is important to identify the ‘hotspots’ and ‘brightspots’ for preventing further degradation of the land by taking appropriate mitigation/combating measures.

This is an OPEN ACCESS article

Read the rest of articles from the early view latest issue of Land Degradation and Development Journal