Desertification in Spain: A Sound Diagnosis without Solutions and New Scenarios

Jaime Martínez‐valderrama, Gabriel Del Barrio, María E. Sanjuán, Emilio Guirado, Fernando T. Maestre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The latest world atlas of desertification represents a turning point in the diagnosis of desertification. While it forgoes desertification mapping due to the intrinsic complexity of the phenomenon and the impossibility of measuring it using a single indicator, it introduces the convergence of evidence paradigm, which identifies socioeconomic and biophysical variables whose behaviour allows pointing out those areas prone to desertification. The Spanish National Action Program Against Desertification (PAND), back in 2008, already implemented a similar approach to identify five “desertification landscapes” within Spain using both socio‐economic and climatic information. The PAND was not only pioneering but also, unfortunately, accurate. Desertification in Spain has continued to worsen and the first two decades of the 21st century have consolidated an agri‐food model whose dynamics have exacerbated the desertification processes identified in the PAND. Despite its scientific value, the PAND lacked a proper action plan and was completely detached from the diagnosis. As a result, the diagnosis it provided was not followed by effective actions to halt desertification in Spain. The Spanish government’s recent declaration of climate and environmental emergency requires a new strategy to combat desertification. This commitment is an excellent opportunity to update the diagnosis of the situation and, more crucially, to unify the different desertification sectoral policies and actions under a single front. We provide here elements (e.g., analysis of agri‐food trends and integration of plans and policies at different geographical and sectoral levels) for a roadmap to be designed around the pressures, impacts, and drivers that define today’s Spanish desertification landscapes to effectively manage and avoid their further degradation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number272
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Agriculture
  • Convergence of evidence
  • Desertification
  • Diagnosis
  • Groundwater
  • Socioeconomic factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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