• A personal note on IGBP and the social sciences

    Humans are an integral component of the Earth system as conceptualised by IGBP. João Morais recalls key milestones in IGBP’s engagement with the social sciences and offers some words of advice for Future Earth.
  • IGBP and Earth observation:
    a co-evolution

    The iconic images of Earth beamed back by the earliest spacecraft helped to galvanise interest in our planet’s environment. The subsequent evolution and development of satellites for Earth observation has been intricately linked with that of IGBP and other global-change research programmes, write Jack Kaye and Cat Downy .

Dynamic causal patterns of desertification

BioScience (2004)
Geist H J and Lambin E F (eds)
Vol 54; Issue 9; pp. 817-829

Using a meta-analytical research design, we analyzed subnational case studies (n = 132) on the causes of dryland degradation, also referred to as desertification, to determine whether the proximate causes and underlying driving forces fall into any pattern and to identify mediating factors, feedback mechanisms, cross-scalar dynamics, and typical pathways of dryland ecosystem change. Our results show that desertification is driven by a limited suite of recurrent core variables, of which the most prominent at the underlying level are climatic factors, economic factors, institutions, national policies, population growth, and remote influences. At the proximate level, these factors drive cropland expansion, overgrazing, and infrastructure extension. Identifiable regional patterns of synergies among causal factors, in combination with feedback mechanisms and regional landuse and environmental histories, make up specific pathways of land change for each region and time period. Understanding these pathways is crucial for appropriate policy interventions, which have to be fine-tuned to the region-specific dynamic patterns associated with desertification.

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