Unlocking the potential of soil microbes for sustainable desertification management

Elsevier, Earth-Science Reviews, Volume 252, May 2024
Islam W., Zeng F., Alotaibi M.O., Khan K.A.

Desertification, the process of land degradation in arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid areas, poses significant environmental, social, and economic challenges worldwide. As desertification continues to threaten ecosystems and livelihoods, innovative strategies for its management are urgently needed. The article begins by elucidating the causes and consequences of desertification, emphasizing its complex interplay with human activities and natural factors. It highlights the growing recognition of soil microbes as a critical component in combatting desertification. Soil microbes, encompassing a diverse community of bacteria, fungi, archaea, and other microorganisms, play multifaceted roles in soil health, ecosystem function, and sustainable land management. This review delves into the mechanisms through which soil microbes can contribute to desertification management. It discusses their roles in nutrient cycling, soil fertility enhancement, carbon sequestration, soil stabilization, erosion control, and biodiversity conservation. Drawing on case studies and real-world examples, it offers insights into successful applications of soil microbe-based strategies across different geographical regions and ecosystems. Challenges and limitations in implementing these strategies are also examined, including factors such as environmental variability, scale of application, and potential risks. Furthermore, research gaps and areas for improvement in understanding the intricate relationships between soil microbes and desertification management are identified. The review explores prospects and research directions in soil microbe-based desertification management. It highlights innovative approaches, emerging technologies, and the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration. Additionally, it discusses policy implications and the potential of these strategies to contribute to sustainable land use practices.