Nowadays desert monitoring is a needed action for assessing the status of a zone, forecasting its trajectory and validating the adopted management programmes. However, most of assessment procedures are highly empirical and are focused on symptoms of desertification (land degradation), instead of considering their underlying drivers and processes. As a consequence, current desertification assessment procedures are local, and their application at global or regional scales is unfeasible, as it requires costly and long-term field observations. Moreover, quantification of desertification is mostly uncertain, since applied indicators are frequently intuitive.
To overcome these limitations this DDSS has been developed for complementing assessment of desertification status with early warning and vulnerability evaluation of the involved land use systems, taking into account the dynamic and interactive effects of climatic and human drivers of desertification. The project has been funded under the EU FP6 Integrated Project (IP) Call, and the consortium, with 39 partners and a lot of represented countries (10 EU Member States and some Third Country States), has been coordinated by the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, more specifically the Estación Experimental de Zonas Áridas (Spain).
The DDSS includes three tools that allow future users to obtain a regional mapping of biophysical land condition and other complex desertification syndromes. In addition, trends based on the combination of land use change and biophysical characteristics over time can be obtained. A third tool provides a forecasting facility to anticipate the trajectories of the target land and its land use systems in a desertification-prone environment in a short-term (near 30 years). Finally, two additional modules have been designed to define steady states of targeted land in a long-term, making use, respectively, of top-down (predator-prey theory-like approach) and bottom-up approaches. The information for using all tools can be obtained from
Information and observation Systems, and have been primarily applied to EU member countries affected by desertification, but also to other affected areas like Chile, Morocco, Senegal, Tunisia or China.
As a result, the solution which has been developed is now ready for exploitation, and most of its modules can be freely used, so it reaches a level 9 on the TRL scale. Nevertheless, supervision from developers is strongly recommended. A validation step of outputs is also required. The DDSS targets mainly national and pan-European policy makers (i.e. European Commission) who attempt to set up high-impact decisions measures to face desertification. Banks and insurance companies might also benefit from the DDSS tool, as desertification has a huge impact on economic issues.