Key messages

  • Drylands cover 6.1 billion hectares, making up 41 % of the Earth’s land surface, and characterized by water scarcity. They cover more than 100 countries across regions and are the basis for livelihoods of more than 2 billion people.
  • Trees and forests in drylands generate a wealth of environmental services, they provide habitats for biodiversity, protect again water and wind erosion and desertification, help water infiltrate soils and contribute to soil fertility.
  • They help increase the resilience of landscapes and communities in the face of climate change
  • Drylands contain 1.11 billion hectares of forests (18% of the global drylands area and 27% of the global forest area), 1.8 billion of grasslands (31% of the global dryland area), 0.86 billion hectares of cropland (14% of the global dryland area).  
  • Trees are present on 1.9 billion ha of the world’s drylands.
  • An estimated 13.5 billion trees grow outside forests in the global drylands. Most of these are in grasslands (6.5 billion trees; 50%) and croplands (5.2 billion trees; 39 %) and 1 billion trees are on land classified as settlements.
  • Land degradation in drylands, commonly referred to as desertification, almost always begins with the removal and degradation of vegetation including forests and grasslands
  • Forests are central to drylands health and wealth. They work as soil stabilizer, a buffer zone against desertification and are ideal for protecting and improving the quality of soil.
  • In Africa, drylands (arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid) comprise 43 % of the continent, and are inhabited by farmers, herders and pastoralists whose livelihoods heavily depend on the goods and services provided by forests, trees, shrublands, farmlands, and grazing lands.
  • The long-term sustainability of dryland forests is in jeopardy due to population increase, growing demand for natural resources, poverty, social conflicts, lack of market opportunities and technical capacity, no recognition of the importance of dryland forests, lack of appropriate policies, governance and investments and lack of integration among different sectors. Climate change affects dryland forests and people as it exacerbates all these negative human-related factors.
  • Urgent action is needed to improve the management and restoration of drylands and their forests.

Video

Expert interviews

Publications

 

Audio

Interivew with FAO's Nora Berrahmouni on Drylands: forests and land use
TARGET Zero Hunger podcase: Remote sensing and agriculture
"Recipes" exist to combat desertification
L'invité 26/02/2013 : Nora Berrahmouni, experte forestière à la FAO

Field projects

 

last updated:  Thursday, December 22, 2016