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Monitoring desertification and land degradation over sub-Saharan Africa

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A desertification monitoring system is developed that uses four indicators derived using continental-scale remotely sensed data: vegetation cover, rain use efficiency (RUE), surface run-off and soil erosion. These indicators were calculated on a dekadal time step for 1996. Vegetation cover was estimated using the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). The estimation of RUE also employed NDVI and, in addition, rainfall derived from Meteosat cold cloud duration data. Surface run-off was modelled using the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) model parametrized using the rainfall estimates, vegetation cover, land cover, and digital soil maps. Soil erosion, one of the most indicative parameters of the desertification process, was estimated using a model parametrized by overland flow, vegetation cover, the digital soil maps and a digital elevation model (DEM). The four indicators were then combined to highlight the areas with the greatest degradation susceptibility. The system has potential for near-real time monitoring and application of the methodology to the remote sensing data archives would allow both spatial and temporal trends in degradation to be determined.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Departamento de Geografia Universidad de Valencia Avenida Blasco Ibáñez 28 Valencia 46010 Spain, Email: 2: Department of Geography King's College London Strand, London WC2R 2LS UK, Email:

Publication date: February 1, 2004

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