|Social and Environmental Aspects of Desertification (UNU, 1980, 38 pages)|
This Working Group has benefited greatly from the continuing support it has received from UNESCO under its Man and Biosphere programme. This support was appropriately marked by the inclusion within the programme of reports on activities by United States scientists on those MAB projects which relate most closely to the objectives of the Working Group.
MAB-3:Grazing Lands and Man, with Particular Reference to Arid Zones
Dr. Richard Rice of the Department of Animal Sciences, University of Arizona, described work under this project and mentioned two main themes that were being pursued: The Rangeland Resource-involving studies in Africa especially, but also including Australia; and Social Science Aspects of the Project - specifically social needs to be considered in recommendations for rangeland resource management. This topic is being pursued by Dr. Walter Goldsmith of the Department of Anthropology, University of California at Los Angeles.
Other MAB-3 activities have included: a review of the position papers on desertification prepared by the United States for the International Desertification Conference held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1977; participation in the Mexico-USA working seminar on Integrated Development of Rural Communities in the Arid and Semi-arid Grazing Lands of Mexico at Saltillo, Mexico, in August 1979; and publication of a Directory of Social Scientists for Rangeland Peoples.
In addition, MAB-3 sponsored two half-day sessions at the First International Rangeland Congress at Denver, Colorado, in August 1978. One session dealt with grazing programmes in harmony with social values of pastoral groups and general populations in Chile, Egypt, Iran, New Zealand, Nigeria, Sudan and Tunisia. Another session explored the potential contribution by social scientists to such programmes. An understanding of pastoral livelihood systems and their traditional knowledge of plants and animals is a factor to be considered in the design of measures to combat problems related to drought and desert encroachment. Dr. Rice described two other recently sponsored studies. The first is a major long-term project of MAB-3 known as the Pre-Saharan Tunisia Project, which is being carried out by Dr. F. Wagner with support from the US Agency for International Development. This is a seven-year study of the role of a sedentarized, formerly nomadic culture in southern Tunisia in extending the desert border. The second is a new project being carried out by Dr. George van Dyne of Colorado State University on Prediction of Grazing Land Productivity under Climatic Variability. His aim is to synthesize information on the status of world grazing lands and their animal production, and the role of climate in causing variations in these. The project is being supported by the Natural Science Foundation.
Dr. Rice also mentioned studies of rangelands, projected through the University of Arizona, in Niger (through the Office of Arid Lands Studies), Yemen and Upper Volta.
Dr. Rice stressed however that activities have been restricted through lack of funds, for the US MAB Committee operates on a very low budget. Though the Committee accepts proposals and evaluations and endorses approved projects, funding must be obtained through traditional funding agencies. Some assistance, including support for conferences, is received through government departments and agencies, such as the Department of State, the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture.
He criticized the low levels of interdisciplinary activities within the MAB Programme as a whole in the USA, and noted that this is also true of MAB-3; however, he stressed the wide range of disciplines represented on the Committee, including agronomy, animal science, range management, range science, resource economics, sociology and wildlife ecology. Participating organizations include Colorado State University, Texas A & M University, Texas Tech University, the University of Arizona, the USDA Agricultural Research Service, the USDA Forest Service, the USDA Bureau of Land Management and Utah State University.
At the national level the Committee would continue to promote study themes and could indeed embrace some of the activities of this Working Group.
MAB-8: Conservation of Natural Areas and Development of a Network of Biosphere Reserves
Dr. Peter Ffolliott of the School of Renewable Natural Resources, University of Arizona, reported that the objectives of this project are the conservation of genetic diversity, baseline environmental monitoring, and research and training. These are achieved through the establishment of re serves in characteristic ecosystems in National Parks and National Forests. In the latter, studies are also being carried out on man's impact in areas of multiple land use. The reserves are established by submissions through National Committees for approval by the MAB Directorate in Paris.
Dr. Ffolliott reviewed activities under MAB-3 in the United States, and noted that a series of workshops had been held on how to utilize biosphere reserves. A major interest of the University of Arizona was a bi-national project in association with the Mexican National Committee, with a view to integrating study of the impact of man's activities on dry forest in western North America, both on the margins of the dryland and in the upland pine-forest zone. Two biosphere reserves are being used to achieve this objective, one in north-central Arizona, the Beaver Creek Biosphere Reserve, and a Mexican counterpart in La Michilia, Durango.
MAB-4: Impact of Human Activities on the Dynamics of Arid and Semi-Arid Zones' Ecosystems, with Particular Attention to the Effects of Irrigation
Dr. Jack Johnson, Director, Office of Arid Lands Studies, University of Arizona, and Chairman of MAB-4, mentioned that the US MAB approach has been to expand its area of concern to include all aspects of arid-zone ecosystems, including irrigation, arid-adapted vegetation, resource inventory and development and other related activities. In addition to activities in the United States, the US Committee for MAB-4 has projects in Niger and Peru.
One proposal under this project is on Use of Arid-Adapted Grazing Animals. Ms. E. Terhune, Assistant Director, OALS, spoke briefly on this proposal, which involves the use of animals that have become physiologically adapted on marginal lands. Experience with oryx and gemsbok in Mexico indicate that they use 60 per cent less water than domestic livestock. Another proposal, Impact of the Decline in Water Availability for Southwestern Irrigated Agriculture, addresses questions regarding local, regional, national and international impacts and also explores the possibility of maintaining agricultural production through increased water efficiency.
Douglas Johnson of Clark University, also a member of MAB-4, mentioned that he was involved in two studies relating closely to MAB-4 activities, namely Effects of Population Growth Trends on Arid Ecosystems, and The Development of Management Strategies for Arid Lands, a study being supported by the United Nations University.