Desertification

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Desertification is the degradation of land in arid and dry sub-humid areas due to various factors: including climatic variations and human activities.[1]

A major impact of desertification is reduced biodiversity and diminished productive capacity, for example, by transition from land dominated by shrublands to non-native grasslands[citation needed]. For example, in the semi-arid regions of southern California, many coastal sage scrub and chaparral ecosystems have been replaced by non-native, invasive grasses due to the shortening of fire return intervals. This can create a monoculture of annual grass that cannot support the wide range of animals once found in the original ecosystem[citation needed]. In Madagascar's central highland plateau[citation needed], 10% of the entire country has desertified due to slash and burn agriculture by indigenous peoples[citation needed].

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Prehistoric patterns

Desertification is a historic phenomenon; the world's great deserts were formed by natural processes interacting over long intervals of time. During most of these times, deserts have grown and shrunk independent of human activities. Paleodeserts are large sand seas now inactive because they are stabilized by vegetation, some extending beyond the present margins of core deserts, such as the Sahara. Many deserts in western Asia arose because of an overpopulation of prehistoric species and subspecies during the late Cretaceous era[citation needed].

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