SPAIN: Dr. Jos L. Rubio, Chief, Desertification Research Unit (IATA-CSIC) in Valencia, gave a brief description of desertification in Spain. Water erosion is a major cause of desertification and reforestation is the major means of control. He explained that 43.8% of Spanish territory is affected by erosion and irregular levels of precipitation are insufficient for rapid recovery of vegetation, once it has been eroded. One of the major causes of environmental degradation in Spain is forest fires. Other causes include logging, over-grazing and agriculture in marginal areas. Reforestation has been extensively carried out to combat desertification and more than 2.5 million hectares have been reforested since 1940. Over the last few years there was a sizable drop in reforestation, due to lack of cooperation by private landowners due to a lack of incentives, criticism by the environmental movement on the use of pine species, and the absence of legal instruments that provide incentives. The new national plan is attempting to remedy these problems.
UNITED STATES: Paul Blakeburn, Director of the Office of Ecology, Health and Conservation at the US Department of State, described the drylands in the central and western regions of the US. He gave a history of settlement in this region and explained how policies used to encourage settlement resulted in the overgrazing of many rangelands and numerous water projects led to salinization. The Dust Bowl of the 1930s was the result of drought and agricultural production on hundreds of thousands of acres of marginal land. As a result, the government expanded or initiated a number of programmes, including: finance of livestock and farming practices for dryland areas, including windbreaks and contour plowing; establishment of units local governments called Conservation Districts, where participation by farmers was voluntary and service provided on a first-come first-serve basis; advanced techniques in weather prediction; and limits on the type and amount of livestock grazing. He added that successful programmes must include: 1) collaborative policies and programmes to understand natural systems at work in these ecosystems; 2) the design of management practices for these ecosystems; and 3) encouraging people to implement sustainable management practices. In the discussion of developed country experiences with desertification, Mali asked Spain about desertification in the Canary Islands. Portugal and Iceland both described problems their countries are facing with desertification. Portugal has suffered from severe soil loss and 40% of Iceland's territory is covered by desert. Ghana and Burkina Faso asked Spain about methods used to combat forest fires. Spain explained that the basic approach included prevention, detection, monitoring and immediate response. Mauritania mentioned that many of the root causes of land degradation are the former colonial policies and these must be taken into consideration when negotiating the convention. Belgium, Tanzania and Kenya brought up the use of eucalyptus in drylands. Burkina Faso asked about incentives for reforestation.
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