Soil erosion and salinisation

There are many issues when humans use deserts and their surrounding areas.

Soil erosion

The effects of drought in Africa
The effects of drought in Africa

This is a problem which affects many areas. When the soil is left bare, the wind can pick up speed due to the flat land and blow away the unprotected soil.

The effects of drought in Africa

  • The soil is exposed and vulnerable to erosion as a result of the removal of vegetation and overgrazing.
  • Trees, which provide protection from the wind and rain, are removed to be used as fuel.
  • Nomadic tribes have become more sedentary, which puts pressure on the land where they settle.
  • When soil is blown away the land becomes useless for grazing and crops and causes desertification. This is a problem in the Sahel region of Africa. This problem is worsened when restrictions are placed on the movement of nomadic tribes.


Salinisation occurs when the water in soils evaporates in high temperatures, drawing salts from the soil to the surface. These salts are toxic to many plants and make the land unusable. This has consequences such as low yields, poor profits and even starvation. Irrigation of land - when water is brought to land that is naturally dry - can cause salinisation on desert margins.

It is not just physical geography which is affected when humans use desert environments. Culturally, when tourists and new migrants come in culture may be diluted or new languages picked up.

Population pressures

With a growing population there is more demand for food and water. This puts pressure on fragile and limited resources. Overgazing and overcultivation to provide enough food are two problems caused.

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