Mankind, not nature, is to blame for turning the Sahara into a desert, scientists claim.
Vegetation records previously revealed that about 10,000 years ago, the Sahara was a lush grassland dotted with lakes. New research, published in Frontiers in Earth Science, suggests pastoral communities in the Sahara slowly turned the rainforest to desert. The findings challenge previous conventional theories that blame a change in the Earth’s orbit or a natural shift in vegetation.
The theory centers on the westward migration patterns from the Nile River region around 8,000 years ago that coincide with an uptick of scrub vegetation, “an indicator of an ecological shift towards desert-like conditions,” Phys.org reports.
Livestock fed on the vegetation, leaving a bigger bare surface to reflect sunlight. This affected atmospheric conditions that led to less rainfall, speeding up the climate change process until it spread across the continent to create the desert.
Archeologist Dr. David Wright, the study’s author from Seoul National University, point to similar historical patterns in Asia, Europe, and North America. He said additional studies should be done, looking at vegetation and archeological evidence, to confirm his hypothesis.