Among policy institutions, researchers in other fields, and the public, there is an enduring misunderstanding of the nature of desertification. To a considerable extent, its meaning has been reduced to just two eye‐catching images: sand dunes encroaching on productive land and habitations and bare, cracked soil surfaces. Yet neither of these is an indicator of desertification—sometimes called dryland degradation. Rather desertification results in a wide range of changes, including erosion, loss of biodiversity, decline in soil fertility, and reduced carbon storage. Surprisingly, it is the pictures themselves, not the scientific literature, that have fixed this erroneous concept in the minds of even some who work in the field of land degradation. The results of this confusion include inappropriate management efforts, mistaken premises in research, and ill‐informed policies at local to global scales including misleading prognostications of institutions—even at the level of United Nations agencies.

Prince, S. D., & Podwojewski, P. (2019). Desertification – inappropriate images lead to inappropriate actions. Land Degradation & Development.

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