What Are the Environmental Issues of the Sahara Desert?

The plants, wildlife and overall ecosystem of the Sahara Desert are threatened by human activities, such as overstocking livestock, an increasing demand for firewood, irrigation development and hunting for food and sport. The areas of the Sahara that face the greatest environmental threats and deterioration are near permanent sources of water, or oases.

The viability of plant life near oases is threatened due to high populations of domestic animals that graze on insufficient amounts of vegetation. In addition, local inhabitants remove plants for firewood, which ends up being used 30 percent faster than it can be produced. The people living in towns and cities search out firewood as far as 300 kilometers away from their homes. In addition, the development of irrigated water has led to high levels of salt in the soil due to drainage issues.

The degradation of plant life results in the increase of airborne dust and decrease in rainfall. Moreover, populations of animals that have adapted to the desert habitat, such as antelope, have been greatly reduced by hunting for both food and sport.

The Sahara Desert, also known as the Great Desert, is largely untouched and unpopulated. It’s the world’s largest hot desert and accounts for roughly 10 percent of the African continent. Perennial plants that exist in the Sahara can create environmental stability and food for both humans and animals. The fruits, seeds and leaves of these plants provide nutrition, vegetation cover and a source of firewood. Farming areas for perennial plants can also provide protection for endangered species.