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Journal of Arid Land  2015, Vol. 7 Issue (3): 391-402    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-015-0002-7
Research Articles     
Dryland agriculture and rangeland restoration priorities in Afghanistan
Michael J JACOBS1*, Catherine A SCHLOEDER2, Philip D TANIMOTO3
1 Texas AgriLife Research, Department of Ecosystem Science & Management, 2138TAMU, College Station, TX 77843-2138, USA;
2 Oikos Services, LLC, Fortine, MT 59918, USA;
3 Conservation Imaging, Inc., Auburndale, Massachusetts 02466, USA
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Abstract  Afghanistan is threatened by rangeland degradation. A quantitative visual analysis of Google Earth Imagery was used to systematically locate, characterize and quantify the current extent of rangelands in Afghanistan degraded as a consequence of dryland agriculture. Climate data were used in conjunction with dryland agriculture locations to establish a climate envelope comprised by temperature and mean annual precipitation to create a geographical mask known to contain dryland agriculture. Within this mask we created a grid of 100 km2 cells that we analyzed individually to access dryland agriculture extent. Climatic limits to sustainable dryland agriculture and areas of high restoration priority were also assessed as was the distribution of rain-fed agriculture with respect to the location of traditional migration routes for extensive livestock producers. The extents of agriculture in Afghanistan, at both upper and lower elevations, correlated most closely with mean annual temperature (MAT) at the upper elevation limits, and with mean annual precipitation (MAP) at the lower elevation limits. In total, dryland agriculture comprised 38,980 km2 of former native rangeland. Conversion was highest in the northwestern, northern and northeastern provinces of Herat, Badghis, Faryab, Jawzjan, Sar-e-Pul, Samangan, Balkh, Baghlan, Kunduz, Takhar and Badakhshan, with the highest percentage of conversion occurring in Takhar. An MAP value of <400 mm is perceived by farmers as the current climatic limit to sustainable dryland agriculture across the northern regions of the country. Uder this MAP value, approximately 27,677 km2 of converted rangeland met the need for restoration priority. Climate projections indicate that Afghanistan will become warmer and drier in the coming decades. One consequence of this trend is that the MAP threshold of <400 mm to sustainable dryland agriculture will become obsolete in the coming decades. Restoration of currently converted rangelands is needed to restore critical grazing areas as is the adoption of prudent range management policies to prevent further land degradation and support a vital livestock industry. Food security is at stake as the conversion of rangelands to unsustainable rain-fed agriculture may leave large tracks of land unusable for either agriculture or livestock production.

Key wordsarbuscular mycorrhizal fungi      biotechnology      isolation      characterization      desert ecosystem      Arabian Peninsula      Oman     
Received: 02 April 2014      Published: 05 February 2015

This work was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (306-A-00-06-00521-00).

Corresponding Authors: Michael J JACOBS     E-mail:
Cite this article:

Michael J JACOBS, Catherine A SCHLOEDER, Philip D TANIMOTO. Dryland agriculture and rangeland restoration priorities in Afghanistan. Journal of Arid Land, 2015, 7(3): 391-402.

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