[dih-zur-tuh-fi-key-shuh n]

noun Ecology.

the processes by which an area becomes a desert.
the rapid depletion of plant life and the loss of topsoil at desert boundaries and in semiarid regions, usually caused by a combination of drought and the overexploitation of grasses and other vegetation by people.

Also des·ert·i·za·tion [dez-er-tuh-zey-shuh n] /ˌdɛz ər təˈzeɪ ʃən/.
Compare aridification.

Origin of desertification

First recorded in 1970–75; desert1 + -i- + -fication Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for desertification

erosion, logging

Examples from the Web for desertification

Contemporary Examples of desertification

  • So why do we invariably connect higher temperatures with droughts and desertification?

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Upside to Global Warming

    Stefan Theil

    August 26, 2011

Historical Examples of desertification

  • The presence of a nearby desert has no direct relationship to desertification.


    A. S. Walker

  • Desertification does not occur in linear, easily mappable patterns.


    A. S. Walker

  • Desertification may intensify a general climatic trend toward greater aridity, or it may initiate a change in local climate.


    A. S. Walker

  • There is no consensus among researchers as to the specific causes, extent, or degree of desertification.


    A. S. Walker

British Dictionary definitions for desertification



a process by which fertile land turns into barren land or desert
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for desertification

1973, from desert (n.1) + -fication. In French, désertisation is attested from 1968.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

desertification in Science



The transformation of land once suitable for agriculture into desert. Desertification can result from climate change or from human practices such as deforestation and overgrazing.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.