Assessing Direction of desertification changes in an Arid Region (A Case study: Semnan County, Iran)

Document Type : Research Paper


Department of Natural Geography, Faculty of Geography, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran


Desertification is a serious ecological, environmental, and socio-economic threat to the world, and there is an urgent need to develop rational methods for its evaluation at different spatio-temporal scales. This study aimed to address the main directions of desertification changes in Semnan County, Iran. Monthly precipitation was used to calculate a 12-month SPI (Standardized Precipitation Index) and the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) obtained by LandsatThematicMapper (TM) sensor of April month were used for the three years, viz., 1987, 1998, and 2011. Five major categories were identified at level-I and they were subdivided into 11 categories including, 1. Residential areas, 2. Vegetation, 3. Bare and rocky areas, 4. Salt lands and 5. Sand areas. The results indicated that the reduction of the NDVI values was consistent with the changes in land use/land cover. This progress was taken place in some areas with the development of bare soil to salt land, and in some areas with the expansion of sand land, particularly from 1987 to 1998. The results indicated that the salt lands increased 348.24 and 721.57 square kilometers from 1987 to 1998 and from 1998 to 2011, respectively. The results revealed that desertification occurred at a rapid rate, especially towards the east and southeast directions in the study area. That was, towards the Dasht-e-Kavir and Damghan City. The results showed that besides using NDVI and SPI for drought monitoring, the meteorological variables such as temperature, sunshine hours and evaporation could improve the accuracy of interpretation of the results.