Articles | Volume 6, issue 1
Solid Earth, 6, 347–360, 2015
Solid Earth, 6, 347–360, 2015

Research article 18 Mar 2015

Research article | 18 Mar 2015

Identifying areas susceptible to desertification in the Brazilian northeast

R. M. S. P. Vieira1, J. Tomasella1,2, R. C. S. Alvalá2, M. F. Sestini1, A. G. Affonso1, D. A. Rodriguez1, A. A. Barbosa2, A. P. M. A. Cunha2, G. F. Valles1, E. Crepani1, S. B. P. de Oliveira3, M. S. B. de Souza3, P. M. Calil4, M. A. de Carvalho2, D. M. Valeriano1, F. C. B. Campello5, and M. O. Santana5 R. M. S. P. Vieira et al.
  • 1Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais, São José dos Campos, Brazil
  • 2Centro Nacional de Monitoramento e Alertas de Desastres Naturais, Cachoeira Paulista, Brazil
  • 3Fundação Cearense de Meteorologia e Recursos Hídricos, Fortaleza, Brazil
  • 4Secretaria de Agricultura Agropecuária e Abastecimento de Goiás, Goiânia, Brazil
  • 5Secretaria de Extrativismo e Desenvolvimento Rural Sustentável, Brasília, Brazil

Abstract. Approximately 57% of the Brazilian northeast region is recognized as semi-arid land and has been undergoing intense land use processes in the last decades, which have resulted in severe degradation of its natural assets. Therefore, the objective of this study is to identify the areas that are susceptible to desertification in this region based on the 11 influencing factors of desertification (pedology, geology, geomorphology, topography data, land use and land cover change, aridity index, livestock density, rural population density, fire hot spot density, human development index, conservation units) which were simulated for two different periods: 2000 and 2010. Each indicator were assigned weights ranging from 1 to 2 (representing the best and the worst conditions), representing classes indicating low, moderate and high susceptibility to desertification. The results indicate that 94% of the Brazilian northeast region is under moderate to high susceptibility to desertification. The areas that were susceptible to soil desertification increased by approximately 4.6% (83.4 km2) from 2000 to 2010. The implementation of the methodology provides the technical basis for decision-making that involves mitigating actions and the first comprehensive national assessment within the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification framework.

Short summary
This study is the first effort to produce a comprehensive diagnosis of the desertification processes for the entire semiarid of Brazil region and combines the existent experience from previous studies in the region with a consolidated methodology.