Unraveling Misunderstandings about Desertification: The Paradoxical Case of the Tabernas-Sorbas Basin in Southeast Spain
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From its origins, the concept of desertification has been controversial. The prevailing confusion between two desertification visions, one that considers it as the expansion of deserts and another that emphasizes its anthropogenic component, has been transferred to society. Here we illustrate misunderstandings about desertification using a very illustrative case from the Tabernas-Sorbas Basin (Almeria, Spain), where striking badlands that are often used as an image of desertification coexist with an intensive olive agriculture that is irreversibly deteriorating the only oasis in continental Europe (Los Molinos spring). The olive tree is a traditional Mediterranean dryland crop and until the 1950s only about 200 ha were irrigated in this area. However, the profitability of the crop has caused irrigation to expand to 4400 ha in the last two decades. The process of intensification has been reinforced giving way to super-intensive irrigation, which involves going from 210 to 1550 trees/ha,...