Was the Sahara Desert Man-Made?

It is no secret that our modern industrial activities are vastly affecting the Earth’s environment. However, new research suggests that human-driven ecological and climate change may have begun as far back as 10,000 years ago.

Dr David Wright, an archaeologist from Seoul National University, has published a paper explaining how the introduction of pastoral communities across the Sahara Region could have been the reason for the area’s loss of vegetation, therefore creating the Sahara desert. The surrounding areas of the Nile River were once lush and green and until now it has widely been thought that the desertification of the landscape was due to a ‘wobble’ in the Earth’s orbit and natural changes in the Saharan vegetation patterns. On his new findings, Wright says, ‘In East Asia there are long established theories of how Neolithic populations changed the landscape so profoundly that monsoons stopped penetrating so far inland’.

This new theory suggests that it was the introduction of agricultural practices 8,000 years ago that would have permanently affected the amount of rainfall in the area; with less vegetation there was an increase of ‘albedo’ (the amount of sunlight reflected off the earth’s surface) creating a much drier climate.

In support of his theory, Wright aims to drill through to the ancient lake beds underneath the desert floor; ‘The implications for how we change ecological systems have a direct impact on whether humans will be able to survive indefinitely in arid environments’. With around 15% of the world’s population currently inhabiting desert regions, the importance of this research can’t be underestimated.