Dryland forests are in the vanguard of the battle to halt the spread of deserts in arid countries, maintaining the productivity of farmland and a sustainable way of life. They cover a fifth of the land area of arid zones, yet few people have heard of them, and fewer appreciate their value. That must change, says the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) on World Day to Combat Desertification.
Deforestation conjures up images of areas of tropical rainforest the size of small European counties or US states being cleared by commercial logging or ranching interests, or perhaps to make space for biofuel crop plantations. But in countries of the world where populations face abject poverty daily because of poor crop yield or failure, exacerbated by encroaching deserts, healthy forests are a lifeline.
In such arid and semi-arid zones, poverty and need for food and fuel can lead to dryland forests being cleared for farmland as well as for wood fuel to bur