According to the UN’s figures of 2007, in Spain a 36 % of the territory is suffering desertification at different states. This means that over a third of the land is gradually becoming unproductive and infertile. This phenomenon specially affects the Mediterranean watershed and the Canary Islands, though the issue is spreading in most part of the state. This fact positions Spain as the European country with the higher risk of desertification.

Map of risk of desertification in Spain

What has triggered this problem is the damaging of soil which can be due to natural processes such as erosion or changes in the vegetative cover. Even though, the truth is that the human impact is the major cause and if not, it usually enhance the intensity of the others. Agricultural activities,fires, aquifer deplantation (taking water from subterranean springs) and urbanisation – among others – increase the stress the ground undergoes and therefore fasten the desertification. The unusual high percentage of Spain might be due to the dryness of the place as droughts are usual and deforestation (especially due to arson or accidental fires) is a growing problem.

By now at least a 6% of the affected land is irreversibly damaged and the percentage of threaten areas increases constantly (in 2008, already a 38% of soil was affected). This hazard entails other dangers as the environment is lost, the lifestyle of local populations is altered and may lead to their extinction and so, to the decrease of biodiversity.

Desertification in Aragón:

In Aragón the chances of desertification are quite similar to the Spanish average; around a third is in danger. Even though, we must remember this figure is still very high meaning that over 750 thousand hectares are in high risk of desertification.

We must add to this the fact that most of the territory, a 91,2%, has negative hydrologic levels – the soil losses more water than it absorbs -. As well, the territory is formed mainly by semiarid areas, which are especially sensible to desertification and droughts are usual. This is why Miguel Ángel Ena head of the Forestal Management and Planification department of the DGA (Aragonese county council) stated ‘Como se ve, en Aragón se dan la mayoría de las condiciones que favorecen la desertificación (As we can see, most conditions which favour desertification can be found in Aragón). Even though, despite showing most climatologic and geographical features leading to desertification, places with similar conditions such as Murcia or Valencia have over 90 % of its soil in risk. This remarkable difference between the percentages is thought to be due to the human abuse of natural resources, which in Aragon seems to be, fortunately, milder.

Nevertheless, prevention for avoiding ending in the same way is necessary. That’s why the Spanish government launched PAND (National Action Plan against Deforestation). The aims of it are to reduce the possibilities of deforestation happening and to enhance sustainable agriculture and the recovery of vegetable cover. In Aragon, this meant starting to plant over 5 million trees in 2008 as well as a detailed study for having a proper view of the problem. This project let us know that the most affected province in Aragón is Teruel with 21,31% of land in danger, being the first step towards getting people involved and aware of the lost of biodiversity.


¤ Last three are in Spanish.