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Rural societies in the face of climatic and environmental changes in West Africa

Benjamin Sultan
Richard Lalou
Mouftaou Amadou Sanni
et al.

Part II. Impacts of the climate and environmental changes

Chapter 6. Between desertification and regreening of the Sahel

What is really happening?

Cécile Dardel, Laurent Kergoat, Pierre Hiernaux, Manuela Grippa and Éric Mougin

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This chapter is aimed at reviewing the ‘desertification’ of the Sahel, a source of polemic for several decades, and its ‘regreening’, a term that appeared with the first satellite observations of plant cover in the 1970s. The debate between the backers of these two diametrically opposed theories is real, and particularly important because this part of the world is known for its high sensitivity to climatic events.

The specific contribution of this work lies in the combined use of remote sensing data at the scale of the Sahel and covering the last 30 years and analysis of long-term field measurements in Mali and Niger. The combination of these different data sources allows better understanding of the evolution of plant cover in the Sahel over the last three decades and checking of the coherence of the satellite observations performed for this purpose. It is thus seen that regreening is undeniable, in particular at the scale of the Sahel, but that opposite trends can also b...


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