Home Science Humans Humans Delayed the Onset of the Sahara Desert by 500 Years

Humans Delayed the Onset of the Sahara Desert by 500 Years

The study by a team of geographers and archaeologists from UCL and King’s College London, published in Nature Communications, suggests that early pastoralists in North Africa combined detailed knowledge of the environment with newly domesticated species to deal with the long-term drying trend.

It is thought that early pastoralists in North Africa developed intricate ways to efficiently manage sparse vegetation and relatively dry and low fertility soils. Dr. Chris Brierley (UCL Geography), lead author, said:

Around 8,000 years ago, the Sahara wasn’t desert, but instead was a vibrant ecosystem that supported hunter-gatherers and fisherfolk. The “Green Sahara” — the colloquial term for the African Humid Period — was the period in which North Africa became much wetter than it is today thanks to a series of monsoons.

As the Earth’s orbit slowly changed, the rain started to reduce and the vegetation started to die back. Around 5,500 years ago, the ecosystem in the Sahara went into a terminal decline toward the desert we have today. Pastoralism (nomadic or semi-nomadic cattle herders) blossomed in the Sahara from around 1,000 years before that collapse.

Previous studies have put the blame for the collapse of the “Green Sahara” onto these nomads who have often been marginalized in history, but this latest study dispels that myth. The study uses a novel climate-vegetation model to determine whether the end of the African Humid Period occurred earlier than expected.

The model keeps track of variables, such as vegetation and rainfall, and other processes such as the amount of energy coming from the sun, and the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The model found that the “Green Sahara” should have collapsed earlier than it did. This suggests that pastoralists lasted longer than expected and the techniques they used helped them to adapt to the environmental changes. Dr. Brierley added:

Dr Katie Manning (King’s College London), concluded:

Provided by: University College London [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

Like this article? Subscribe to our weekly email for more!     

Troy Oakes
Troy was born and raised in Australia and has always wanted to know why and how things work, which led him to his love for science. He is a professional photographer and enjoys taking pictures of Australia's beautiful landscapes. He is also a professional storm chaser where he currently lives in Hervey Bay, Australia.

Most Popular

US Commerce Department Bans Investments in Chinese Military-Backed Companies

On Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020, the Trump administration issued an executive order barring investments in private companies with close ties to Chinese military, intelligence,...

4 Tips on How to Teach Kids Generosity During the Holidays

The Christmas holiday season is upon us and it will soon be time for celebrations, gift-giving, and other happy occasions. For many parents, this...

A Chinese Entrepreneur Predicts His Tragic Ending

In 1985, Sun Dawu, who has become a Chinese entrepreneur, and his wife started their business with a thousand chickens and 50 pigs. Ten...

Researchers Find Connection Between Household Chemicals and Gut Microbiome

A team of researchers for the first time has found a correlation between the levels of bacteria and fungi, the gut microbiome, in the...