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Tracking desertification with satellites highlighted at UNCCD COP

With a quarter of the Earth's land surface affected, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification regards desertification as a worldwide problem. Delegates from the 170-plus signatories to the Convention currently gathered in Nairobi have been briefed by ESA representatives and national partners on how satellites are being used to track desertification in Europe.

The Seventh Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 7) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) began in Kenya's capital on 17 October and is due to conclude 28 October. The COP is the main decision making group of the UNCCD, which meets regularly to further the Convention's objectives. The UNCCD was established in 1994, in the wake of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro which recognised desertification as a major social and environmental problem. Desertification does not so much refer to the spread of existing deserts as the creation of new ones, through the reduction of productivity of vulnerable dryland areas by soil deterioration and erosion as well as the long-term loss of natural vegetation.

Such drylands cover 40% of the world's land surface, and are the habitat and source of livelihood for more than one billion people. Of the 5200 million hectares of drylands used for agriculture, more than 70% are classed as degraded. Asia, Latin America and Africa are particularly under threat, but some 30 million hectares of European territory bordering the Mediterranean are also affected, potentially threatening the livelihoods of 16.5 million people.

ESA is backing a satellite-based information service called DesertWatch, working with national partners of four of the European countries most affected by desertification: the Greek, Italian, Portuguese and Turkish National Representatives to the UNCCD.

Dryland desertification can be remedied or even reversed, provided information is available
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Contact: Mariangela D'Acunto
mariangela.dacunto@esa.int
39-06-941-80-856
European Space Agency
24-Oct-2005


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