From 5 to 10 February IAMZ-CIHEAM, together with IUCN (Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature), ICARDA (International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas) and with the collaboration of SER Europe (European Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration) held a course on Restoration of degraded drylands and monitoring of desertification processes.
Drylands are a key terrestrial biome, covering 45% of Earth’s land surface and supporting over 38% of the total global population. They are highly vulnerable to global environmental change. Desertification and land degradation, driven by increasing human pressure on land and water resources, are the most important and pressing environmental and socio-economic issues currently faced by dryland people. The sensitivity of drylands to these problems is amplified from the fact that their primary productivity is strongly limited by precipitation and soil nutrient availability, and both of these factors are undergoing changes associated with increasing atmospheric greenhouse gases and air pollutants. Because of the extent of dryland ecosystems globally, and the dependence of an important part of the human population on them for goods and services, it is crucial to establish effective programmes to monitor land degradation processes that can detect the onset of desertification and restore degraded land before degradation becomes irreversible or restoration too costly.
During the course participants from around 20 countries learnt about the latest scientific and technical advances in land restoration with the purpose of combating desertification, gained updated knowledge on how to effectively restore degraded drylands, from project planning to the implementation and monitoring phases; and heard about available tools to monitor desertification processes. Case-studies from Mediterranean countries were also discussed, as well as relevant high profile international initiatives. The course included practical work, interesting discussions to share knowledge and experiences and a visit to traditional grazing areas to learn more about the characteristics and effects of different grazing intensities on semi-arid gypsiferous ecosystems, as well as a successful restoration project involving the development of wetlands to improve water quality and biodiversity.