Assessment of environmentally sensitive areas to desertification in the Blue Nile Basin driven by the MEDALUS-GEE framework

Citation:
Elnashar, A., H. Zeng, B. Wu, T. G. Gebremicael, and K. Marie, "Assessment of environmentally sensitive areas to desertification in the Blue Nile Basin driven by the MEDALUS-GEE framework", Science of The Total Environment, vol. 815, issue 1, pp. 152925, 2022.

Abstract:

Assessing environmentally sensitive areas (ESA) to desertification and understanding their primary drivers are necessary for applying targeted management practices to combat land degradation at the basin scale. We have developed the MEditerranean Desertification And Land Use framework in the Google Earth Engine cloud platform (MEDALUS-GEE) to map and assess the ESA index at 300 m grids in the Blue Nile Basin (BNB). The ESA index was derived from elaborating 19 key indicators representing soil, climate, vegetation, and management through the geometric mean of their sensitivity scores. The results showed that 43.4%, 28.8%, and 70.4% of the entire BNB, Upper BNB, and Lower BNB, respectively, are highly susceptible to desertification, indicating appropriate land and water management measures should be urgently implemented. Our findings also showed that the main land degradation drivers are moderate to intensive cultivation across the BNB, high slope gradient and water erosion in the Upper BNB, and low soil organic matter and vegetation cover in the Lower BNB. The study presented an integrated monitoring and assessment framework for understanding desertification processes to help achieve land-related sustainable development goals.

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