The Future of Arid Lands: Papers and Recommendations from the International Arid Lands Meetings

The Future of Arid Lands: Papers and Recommendations from the International Arid Lands Meetings

The Future of Arid Lands: Papers and Recommendations from the International Arid Lands Meetings

The Future of Arid Lands: Papers and Recommendations from the International Arid Lands Meetings

Excerpt

This volume sets down the efforts of scientists from 17 countries and from as many disciplines to assess the state of man's struggle to make productive and stable use of the world's arid lands. Areas of meager and undependable rainfall and of sparse vegetation commonly called "arid" account for roughly one-third of the land surface of the globe. Except where water is imported for irrigation, as down the Nile and Colorado rivers, most of that arid zone is sparsely settled and man lives in delicate adjustment to uncertain moisture and shallow soils. Unlike the other great land areas of low population density -- the cold lands -- the arid lands have been greatly affected by man's use and misuse, and the margins of grazing, cropping and non-agricultural activity are shifting, unstable frontiers of occupance.

The future of that occupance hinges in part upon success in maintaining the present resources base at present levels of living: range deterioration, water exhaustion, salt accumulation and accelerated erosion are among the hazards to permanent use. The future also hinges upon ingenuity in finding new and improved ways of increasing the usefulness of these great physical expanses: possibilities range from radical innovations in finding new water sources to patient application of principles known centuries ago.

The whole range of thinking is recorded here without attempting to reconcile differences of view or to fill obvious gaps. No single, clear answer emerges. Troublesome questions are identified and new avenues of attack are plotted. The individual papers and the group recommendations may be considered guideposts to scientific development in at least three ways. They mark a promising method of collaboration across both national and disciplinary boundaries. They point out specific areas of research in which more vigorous activity is needed. They suggest methods of thinking about the future that may play a significant role in shaping that future.

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