Hot Desert Case Studies

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  • Created by: charlyb
  • Created on: 16-03-16 13:42

Imil Flash Flood Morocco 1995

August 1995

  • Torrential downpour of 70mm of rain within a short period of time
  • Near the village of Imlil, which are in the semi-arid foothills of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco
  • The flash flood swept boulders the sixe of lorries down the valley of the River Reraya and into the village
  • There is rarely rain in Morocco and because the ground is so hard, the water couldn't and didn't have time to infiltrate
  • 150 people were killed
  • Crops of maize, alfalfa and grass were destroyed
  • Irrigation channels were blocked with silt
  • Walnut trees were swept away, which are an important cash crop for the local Berber people. It takes another 15 years for a walnut tree to mature, therefore this is a long term effect
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Desertification - The Sahel

Background information

  • Semi-desert on the southern edge of the Sahara
  • Stretches across the African continent, and includes parts of Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Sudan
  • Population of over 50 million
  • The residents are some of the poorest people on Earth
  • Have to cope with hostile environments
  • Climate - low and unreliable rainfall and high temperatures in the summer - therefore a lot of the Sahel is unhabitable
  • The people are living on the edge of existence
  • Desertification is a major issue
  • Long droughts and serious famines are common
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Desertification - The Sahel Desert - Causes

1. Population increase

  • There is currently 260 million people living in the Sahel region, which is estimated to double every 20 years
  • Rate of population increase is 3% per year, compared to the increase of food production of 2%
  • Putting pressure on resources
  • This leads to over cultivation and over irrigation

2. Firewood

  • Energy sources are limited in the Sahel, therefore people rely on burning wood for cooking
  • With limited supply and growing demand, the land has been stripped bear of its very few trees
  • Residents of Zinder travel uo 200km to collect firewood
  • The clearing of trees exposes the soil to wind and rain erosion, increasing the effect of desertification
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Desertification - The Sahel - Management Strategie

  • United Nations have encouraged a system of community self - regulation. This involves local communities taking over the maintenance of water sources and surrounding grazing lands. This enables cultural habits, subsistence needs, economic concerns and ecological conservation to be managed as a part of an integrated programme.
  • The UN has encouraged projects in Senegal, Mali and Niger by providing free veterinary and health care
  • The success of this has been limited due to the extreme poverty and the relative powerlessness of the local community
  • Fences and tree lines have been put up to retain soil and reduces the effects of soil erosion
  • promoting the use of solar ovens - to reduce the need for firewood
  • Early warning systems have been put in place to prevent the onset of drought-induced food shortages. These provide the data necessary to predict or assess potential crop loss and animal shortfalls. Based on remotely sensed data of vegetation cover and rainfall patterns and on food market surveys. 
  • A massive tree planting programme in Sudan and Ethiopia, supported by the charity 'The Eden Restoration Project' - over one million trees are being planted in Ethiopia's rift valley
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Managing deserts - Mojave Desert


  • Managed by public organisations including the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service and the Department of Defence and some other private land owners
  • Tourism: Every year, millions of visitors are attracted to places such as, the Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks. This creates massive management challenges for the authorities, which means they need to balance the demands of the visitors with the conservation of the natural environment. With demand for more off road parking, the Bureau of Land Management has now designated a large area of the Mojave desert for the use of off road vehicles, which was put in place for the intention of preventing further damage to the environments in the Mojave.
  • Waste Management: A ckean up of public lands near Barstow attracted more than 500 local volunteers. In 2009, a plan to create a massive landfill site in an abandoned mine close to the Joshua Tree National Park was halted by the Court of Appeal. The landfill woould have recieved 20000 tons of waste from LA everyday for an estimated 117 years
  • Conservation: The Mojave Desert contains a number of endangered species . 1996-2006, $93 million was spent on various projects to successfully resuce the species.
  • Military Training:The department of defence owns a large amount of land in the Mojave Desert and has several military training bases there
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Desertification - The Sahel Desert - Causes

3. Overgrazing

  • This reduces vegetation
  • The animals become desperate and start to eat the roots of the crops which means they die and cannot regrow
  • The soil becomes exposed, which leads to soil erosion
  • The animals compress the soil, which breaks it down causing more soil erosion

4. Drought

  • Sahel suffers from unreliable rainfall, so drought is common
  • This leads to vegetation dying because they do not have the water required to photosynthesise
  • The soil turns to dust, making it prone to wind erosion
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