What are drylands? Where are they found and how important are they for human habitation and agriculture?
Drylands refer to geographical areas that are characterized by scarcity of water, seasonal climatic extremes, and unpredictable rainfall patters. The areas experience rates of evaporation that are higher than that rates of precipitation. Mostly, these areas are generally referred to as arid areas that are at the brink of desertification, though they may not yet be deserts.
Drylands are sparsely populated. The main economic activities will normally be nomadic pastoralism and trade and transportation especially where there are reliable road system. Consequently, many people consider the drylands as less useful and many people may fail to see the full importance of the dryland ecosystems in the world.
Dryland ecosystems sustain a huge diversity of living organisms. There are organisms that are specifically adapted to living in the drylands. Such living organisms would not be available anywhere else. For this reason, the protection of the dryland ecosystems is important in enhancing the sustainability of the globe.
Many of the inhabitants of the drylands are poor communities. These communities have learnt how to live and develop the drylands. For instance, there are people who have developed highly sustainable irrigation systems in the drylands. The irrigation schemes in turn help in further balancing the evaporation and precipitation process and this continues to support the biodiversity of the ecosystems.
There are organizations that are currently focused on the protection of the habitats in drylands. Though such organizations are few, they have cited a myriad of reasons for the protection of drylands. The drylands hold some of the crops that are most resistant to drought and they have been testing sites for the development of resilient crops. Other conservationists argue that if the drylands were left without any disturbance they have the potential of developing vegetation similar to any other ecosystems. Such vegetation includes cacti. The vegetation is normally destroyed by animal grazing in the lands. Efforts are on the rise to try and reduce overgrazing in the drylands to ensure sustainability of the drylands.
Focusing more on the importance of drylands to agricultural development, about a third of cultivated plants in the world emanate from the drylands. Further, majority of the livestock breeds in the world emanate from the drylands. The crops and animals that are developed from those that are adapted from the drylands have made the drylands an important part of agriculture and animal rearing. Conservationists will refer to the drylands as genetic reservoirs for highly drought-resistant crops and animals that are the future of alleviation and eradication of hunger and famine in different parts of the world, as the climate change menace continues to bite. Dryland ecosystems should therefore continue to be protected and managed for sustainable development.