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Earth System Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union

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© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
20 Apr 2017
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of this manuscript was accepted for the journal Earth System Dynamics (ESD) and is expected to appear here in due course.
Desertification, Resilience and Re-greening in the African Sahel – A matter of the observation period?
Hannelore Kusserow Department of Earth Sciences, Institute of Geographical Sciences, Remote Sensing and Geoinformatics, Freie Universitaet Berlin
Abstract. Since the turn of the millennium various publications have been discussinga re-greening of the Sahel after the 1980's drought mainly based on coarse-resolution satellite data. Recent field studies show a more differentiated picture questioning both paradigms, the Encroaching Sahara and the Re -greening Sahel.

The author set out this article to discuss the concepts of Desertification, Resilience and Re-greening by addressing three main aspects: (i) relevance of edaphic factors for a vegetation re-greening, (ii) importance of the selected observation period in the debate of Sahel greening or browning, and (iii) modifications in vegetation pattern as possible indicators for ecosystem changes (shift from originally diffuse to contracted vegetation patterns).

The data used in this article cover a period of more than 150 years and include the author's own research results from the early 1980s until today. A special emphasis, apart from field work and remote sensing, is laid on the analysis of historical documents.

The key findings summarised at the end show the following: (i) a vegetation recovery predominantly depends on soil types; (ii) when discussing Sahel greening vs. browning, the majority of research articles only focuses on post-drought conditions. However, if pre-drought conditions (before 1980s) are analysed, remote sensing based time series and botanical investigations clearly show a substantial decline in diversity of woody species and cover density, compared to pre-drought conditions; (iii) self-organised patchiness of vegetation is considered to be an important indicator for ecosystem changes.

Citation: Kusserow, H.: Desertification, Resilience and Re-greening in the African Sahel – A matter of the observation period?, Earth Syst. Dynam. Discuss.,, in review, 2017.
Hannelore Kusserow
Hannelore Kusserow


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