European Wilderness Society

World Environment Day

This post is written by Aurelien Rinaudo.

Today is World Environment Day. With global warming, temperatures are rising, and more and more lands are facing desertification. However, to combat desertification, trees are very good allies. It is therefore necessary to understand why they are so effective. Thus, today, to fight against these deserts, large-scale projects have been implemented to curb this phenomenon. This is why we will study the action of trees on the desert as well as the actions taken worldwide to stop the advancement of deserts. 

How trees prevent the advancement of the desert: 

Trees act on several factors to prevent desertification. The first factor is evapotranspiration. Evapotranspiration occurs when the tree releases water through its leaves to draw sap from its roots. This phenomenon only occurs during the day because it happens alongside photosynthesis. Thus, the water released by the trees will cool the ambient air and may even cause precipitation, as this water vapor forms clouds that can produce storms, for example. Trees also act as a barrier to the advancement of the desert because their root systems stabilize the soil, preventing it from being blown away. The tree canopy can significantly impact the wind, which will also stop the progression of deserts. Trees offer more sheltered spaces and bring freshness and humidity. Dead leaves or branches enrich the soil as they decompose, allowing other species, such as bushes and grasses, to establish themselves. All of this will certainly stop the desert and allow ecosystems to establish themselves. 

Reforestation initiatives to combat desertification: 

Today, there are two main deserts where large reforestation projects are being implemented. The first is the Sahara Desert. This project aims to form a green wall over 7000 km long, linking Senegal to Djibouti. This green wall aims to stop the advancement of the desert in these areas and create ecosystems where local populations can live again. The second such project is in the Gobi Desert. The Gobi Desert straddles China and Mongolia. China plans to create a great green wall along this desert over 4000 km long. 

For sustainable projects: 

For these planting projects to result in sustainable models, one must not only rely on their environmental aspects. These trees must integrate into the local landscape. Therefore, diversified species that can also be useful to local populations should be planted. If these trees provide fruit or fodder for their animals, local populations will ensure they are protected initially and develop well. Having local and diverse species ensures that if a pest attacks one species, it won’t devastate the entire forest. China, with its project in the Gobi Desert, is a poor example, as its barrier comprises very few species, most of which are exotic. 

European Wilderness Society is partner in projects which aims to protect environment. HORIZON project ALFAwetlands, to restore wetlands, Smartour project to help societies create more sustainable and eco-friendly areas to protect nature. European wilderness society is also maintaining a European Wilderness Network, which represents Wilderness across Europe, such as WILDCoasts, WILDForests, WILDIslands, and WILDRivers. 


To combat desertification, large projects are being implemented in Africa and China. These projects aim to establish a green wall at the desert’s edge to stop its advancement. This green wall consists of trees spanning several kilometers in width, which, through their functioning, will halt the desert’s progression. However, it is necessary to integrate these plantings into the local landscape to ensure their sustainability. 

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