Assessing early warning for desertification hazard based on E-SMART indicators in arid regions of northeastern Iran
Desertification is a dynamic and complex system of land degradation. To understand it, physical and anthropogenic processes and their interrelations need to be identified. This study aimed to provide early warning information on desertification risk in the form of warning maps, using effective key indicators of land degradation in a 15-year period in the arid regions of northeastern Iran. E-SMART key Indicators should be E: Economic, S: Specific, M: Measurable, A: Achievable, R: Relevant, and T: Time-bound. Multiple regression analysis showed that the majority of indicators could accurately assess desertification risk at a 99% confidence level with R2 = 0.81. Furthermore, compared to the beginning of the study period, areas under desertification warning due to natural and anthropogenic factors had increased by about 78 percent in 2015. This observation is aligned with the impacts of drought, which has resulted from the continued reduction in rainfall. The expansion of at-risk areas has in turn exacerbated the adverse environmental conditions and amplified the effects of drought in the area. Spatio-temporal changes in soil salinity, groundwater quality, groundwater level, vegetation, agricultural development, and socioeconomic issues showed that the study area has suffered from land degradation and desertification between 2000 and 2015.