Environmental change in the Sahel: reconciling contrasting evidence and interpretations

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningfagfællebedømt

The Sahel has been the object of intensive international research since the drought of the early 1970s. A considerable part of the research has focused on environmental change in general and land degradation, land cover change and climate change in particular. Rich and diverse insights from many different scientific disciplines about these three domains have been put forward. One intriguing feature is that an agreement on the overall trends of environmental change does not appear to emerge: questions such as whether the Sahel is greening, cropland is encroaching on rangelands, drought persists remain contested in the scientific literature, and arguments are supported by contrasting empirical evidence. The paper explores the generic reasons behind this situation in a systematic manner. We distinguish between divergences in interpretations emerging from (1) conceptualizations, definitions and choice of indicators, (2) biases, for example, related to selection of study sites, methodological choices, measurement accuracy, perceptions among interlocutors, and selection of temporal and spatial scales of analysis. The analysis of the root causes for different interpretations suggests that differences in findings could often be considered as complementary insights rather than mutually exclusive. This will have implications for the ways in which scientific results can be expected to support regional environmental policies and contribute to knowledge production.

TidsskriftRegional Environmental Change
Udgave nummer3
Sider (fra-til)673-680
StatusUdgivet - 2016


  • Bias, Climate change, Land degradation, Land use, Scale, Scientific controversies

ID: 140566742