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Transfer of adaptation strategies in global drylands: Insights from a typology of vulnerability

Spatial distribution of vulnerability patterns in global drylands. Exemplary case studies are mapped that validate cluster-specific mechanisms and provide entry points to reduce vulnerability.


Drylands display specific vulnerability-creating mechanisms which threaten ecosystems and human well-being. The upscaling of successful interventions to reduce vulnerability arises as an important, but challenging aim, since drylands are not homogenous. To support this aim, we present the first attempt to categorise dryland vulnerability at a global scale and sub-national resolution. The categorisation yields typical patterns of dryland vulnerability and their policy implications according to similarities among the socio-ecological systems. Based on a compilation of prevalent vulnerability-creating mechanisms, we quantitatively indicate the most important dimensions including poverty, water stress, soil degradation, natural agro-constraints and isolation. A cluster analysis reveals a set of seven typical vulnerability patterns showing distinct indicator combinations (see Fig. 1). One pattern represents the most vulnerable regions identifying the poorest people in the most isolated regions where highly overused water resources and pronounced agro-constraints limit human wellbeing. This vulnerability pattern occurs mainly in Africa and Afghanistan including parts of major deserts like the Sahara, Kalahari, Nubian and Afghan deserts. The results are validated by case studies reflecting the cluster-specific mechanisms and their spatial distribution. Based on these patterns, we deduce thematic and spatial entry points for reducing dryland vulnerability. Our findings could contribute new insights into allocating the limited funds available for dryland development and support related monitoring efforts based on the manageable number of key indicators.

Citation: Sietz, D., Lüdeke, MKB. and Walther, C. (2011) Categorisation of typical vulnerability patterns in global drylands. Glob. Environ. Chang. 21(2): 431-440.

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