Restoring natural capital in arid and semiarid regions

Combining ecosystem health with human wellbeing

Issue 7 40 pp. • Published in June 2009

Author(s): Aronson James

The overall aim of this CSFD thematic report is to communicate, share and discuss key elements of restoring natural capital in arid and semiarid regions. Its main goal is to promote the implementation of this approach within societies and communities that are the most threatened by desertification.

The regions threatened by desertification cover about 40% of the emerged land masses. Most people living in these regions are exposed to poverty or extreme poverty. An approach to simultaneously restore degraded ecosystems and improve human wellbeing is urgently needed.

Biodiversity conservation, poverty alleviation and economic development are traditionally perceived as having separate or even conflictual interests. This report shows the contrary. Indeed, restoring natural capital combines ecological restoration and sustainable development objectives in order to create a synergy between them both and also the maintaining of native biodiversity.

Several sites throughout the world in arid or semiarid areas are discussed to illustrate elementary concepts of natural capital restoration in the field. This report is the result of the literature review of the available scientific material relevant to natural capital restoration in arid and semiarid areas. Most of the definitions and field illustrations are adapted from Aronson, Milton and Blignaut (2007), a book written by 71 international scientists, managers and journalists in the fields of ecology, economics and ecological economics.  

    Aronson James

    Aronson James

    Researcher, CEFE/CNRS (France)

    La restauration du capital naturel en zones arides et semi-arides

    Dossier du CSFD 7  •  2008

    La restauration du capital naturel en zones arides et semi-arides

    Allier santé des écosystèmes et bien-être des populations


Editing, production and distribution of Les dossiers thématiques du CSFD are fully supported by this Committee thanks to the support of relevant French Ministries and AFD (French Development Agency).

  • Ministère de l'Education nationale, de l'Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche
  • Ministère des Affaires étrangères et du Développement international
  • Ministère de la Transition écologique et solidaire
  • Agence Française de Développement (AFD)


The opinions expressed in these reports are endorsed by the Committee.


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thématiques du CSFD

Mankind is now confronted with an issue of worldwide concern, i.e. desertification, which is both a natural phenomenon and a process induced by human activities. Our planet and natural ecosystems have never been so degraded by our presence. Long considered as a local problem, desertification is now a global issue of concern to all of us, including scientists, decision makers, citizens from both developed and developing countries. Within this setting, it is urgent to boost the awareness of civil society to convince it to get involved. People must first be given the elements necessary to better understand the desertification phenomenon and the concerns. Everyone should have access to relevant scientific knowledge in a readily understandable language and format.

Within this scope, the French Scientific Committee on Desertification (CSFD) has decided to launch a series entitled Les dossiers thématiques du CSFD, which is designed to provide sound scientific information on desertification, its implications and stakes. This series is intended for policy makers and advisers from developed and developing countries, in addition to the general public and scientific journalists involved in development and the environment. It also aims at providing teachers, trainers and trainees with additional information on various associated disciplinary fields. Lastly, it endeavours to help disseminate knowledge on the combat against desertification, land degradation, and poverty to stakeholders such as representatives of professional, nongovernmental, and international solidarity organisations.

These Dossiers are devoted to different themes such as global public goods, remote sensing, wind erosion, agroecology, pastoralism, etc, in order to take stock of current knowledge on these various subjects. The goal is also to outline debates around new ideas and concepts, including controversial issues; to expound widely used methodologies and results derived from a number of projects; and lastly to supply operational and academic references, addresses and useful websites. These Dossiers are to be broadly circulated, especially within the countries most affected by desertification, by email, through our website, and in print. Your feedback and suggestions will be much appreciated!

Scientific editing and iconography: Isabelle Amsallem, Agropolis Productions
Design and production: Olivier Piau, Agropolis Productions