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The Global Deserts Outlook is the first thematic assessment report in the Global Environment Outlook (GEO) series of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). A UNEP contribution to the International Year of Deserts and Desertification in 2006, the report aims to help raise global public awareness of the state of the world’s deserts.

The Global Deserts Outlook presents a panorama of the environmental status of the world’s deserts: their location and extent, uniqueness and vulnerability, biodiversity and natural resources. The report provides a balanced picture of deserts as ecosystems which form a special part of the world’s natural and cultural heritage, and not simply as land that is the end result of the process of desertification. Few places on earth contain a richer collection of natural adaptations to the environment.

Readers are challenged to consider the development potential of deserts and their conservation needs, to explore what would be the most appropriate and sustainable livelihoods for people living in desert areas. Deserts do not have much water, but they do have other natural resources. The knowledge and technology exist to manage these resources sustainably; the challenge lies with determining and implementing appropriate actions for desirable long-term outcomes.

Table of Contents

Shafqat Kakakhel
United Nations Assistant Secretary-General, Deputy Executive Director and Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Environment Programme
Executive Summary
 Deserts Harbour Rich Ecosystems
 Deserts are the Home of Diverse Cultures And Livelihoods
 Deserts Play an Important Role in the Global Environment and Economy
 Deserts Present Deep Challenges for Sustainable Development, but also Great Opportunities
 Deserts will Confront Growing Pressures in Coming Decades
Viable Options Exist for Sustainable Desert Development 
 A New Vision for Desert Development

CHAPTER 1: Natural History and Evolution of the World’s Deserts
 The Desert Biome: A Global Perspective
 Climatic Variability and Rainfall Pulses
 Evolution, History and Biogeography
 Biological Adaptations to Aridity 
CHAPTER 2: People and Deserts
 People in Deserts: An Overview
 Traditional Desert Dwellers: Resource Use and Management
 Modern Desert Dwellers: Resource Use and Management
CHAPTER 3: Deserts and the Planet — Linkages between Deserts and Non-Deserts
 The Physical Tele-Connections — Climate, Dust and Rivers
 People of Deserts And Non-Deserts Are Interlinked
 Deserts as Corridors
 The Impact of Desert Research on Global Science
CHAPTER 4: State and Trends of the World’s Deserts
 Status of the World Deserts
 Land Degradation in the World’s Deserts
 Concluding Remarks
CHAPTER 5: Challenges and Opportunities — Change, Development, and Conservation
 The Forces of Change
 The Challenges and Opportunities Of Development
 Conservation and Sustainable Use
CHAPTER 6: Desert Outlook and Options for Action
 Scenarios of Change
 Biodiversity Loss
 Options for Action
 Concluding Remarks
Illustrations, Tables and Graphics

 List of Figures  List of Boxes  List of Tables
 Appendix 1  Appendix 2  Reader's Guide  Acknowledgements
 List of Authors, Reviewers and Contributors
 Global Deserts Outlook Collaborating Centres
About Global Deserts Outlook
© UNEP 2006