Advancing desertification: future without water for southern Spain

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Gorafe desert desertification

Over the past decade, the number of areas in Spain actively suffering from desertification has tripled. The future seems bleak, especially in the south of the country, where the situation is most dire in absolute terms.

This is evident from a report by the Estación Experimental de Zonas Áridas EEZA). The final findings are expected this summer. Yet it is already clear that the situation is alarming. Water restrictions apply in many areas. Although recent rain has eased the situation somewhat, the worries for the coming months are far from over.

A growing problem

According to the EEZA’s decennial analyses, around 1% of Spain was an “actively degraded area” around 2010. That is a place where vegetation can no longer grow due to the changed climatic conditions.

Between 2010 and 2020, this percentage increased to 3%. This figure is expected to exceed 5% by the end of this decade. Please note that these figures only concern the geniuses who are deteriorating the fastest. If we look at the total desertified area, this well exceeds 20%.

The silent crisis of desertification

Desertification, the ultimate stage of ecological land degradation, mainly affects arid to semi-arid regions. On the one hand, it leads to the loss of fertile soil and on the other hand, to the inability of ecosystems to sustain themselves. This phenomenon, which affects vegetation, soil and water sources, eliminates any natural recovery mechanism.

This development symbolises the visible consequences of climate change. Moreover, it also poses a huge economic, social and environmental burden. Despite years of warnings, it remains a challenge to quantify the scale of this problem.

Cogesa Expats

Problem hidden by agricultural progress

Advances in agricultural productivity have long masked massive losses of fertile land. Worldwide, this amounted to 24 billion tons of fertile soil per year in the first two decades of this century. That loss is comparable to the entire agricultural area of the United States. This problem, caused by a complex mix of factors, remains largely invisible.

Agriculture is once again in the spotlight

The link between intensive agriculture and desertification is undeniable. Irrigated agriculture in particular has been identified as a critical factor in the accelerated degradation of several areas. This includes the Ebro Valley, the dehesa of Extremadura and the southeast of the Iberian Peninsula.

The cause is not so much irrigation itself, but the short-term vision of “making money for the sake of making money”. There is a lack of adequate monitoring and regulation here. This has led to a “use and throw away” culture in agriculture as it leaves the soil in worse condition than before.

Murcia and Almería: On the way to become deserts

Murcia, with almost its entire territory vulnerable to desertification, shows the urgency of the problem. After Murcia, Castilla-La Mancha and Extremadura follow. Spain, an agricultural power, balances on a fragile foundation of environmental, labour, financial and social pillars. writes that if Spain is to maintain its position as the “vegetable garden of Europe,” there is an urgent need for one of the most ambitious industrial modernisations in Spanish history. According to the medium, there is also a lack of social awareness about the seriousness of this ecological crisis.

Also read: Climate change Spain: Dry showers, empty pools, jellyfish and 50º in beach bar

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