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Combating desertification in Iran over the last 50 years: An overview of changing approaches

Amiraslani, Farshad, Dragovich, Deirdre
Journal of environmental management 2011 v.92 no.1 pp. 1-13
climate change, community service, control methods, desertification, dunes, employment, forage production, groundwater, growth retardation, national planning, plant density, plantations, population growth, poverty, rangelands, runoff, rural areas, species diversity, windbreaks, Iran
Desertification in Iran was recognized between the 1930s and 1960s. This paper traces Iran’s attempts to reclaim desertified areas, evaluates the anti-desertification approaches adopted, and identifies continuing challenges. Iran has areas vulnerable to desertification due to extensive areas of drylands and increasing population pressure on land and water resources. Over-grazing of rangelands is a particular problem. Initially desertification was combated mainly at the local level and involved dune stabilization measures, especially the use of oil mulch, re-vegetation and windbreaks. Insufficient technical planning in the early years has led to changed approaches to plant densities and species diversity in plantations, and increased on-going management of existing plantations. Since the late 1980s forage and crop production has increased in areas where runoff control techniques are practiced. The social and economic aspects of anti-desertification programs have assisted in poverty reduction by providing off-season employment in rural areas. In 2004 a national plan to combat desertification was ratified and this placed an emphasis on community participation. Continuing challenges include managing existing desertified areas as well as taking into account potential future problems associated with rapidly depleting groundwater supplies and a predicted reduction in the plant growth period accompanying climate change.