A Study of Desertification Using Remote Sensing Techniques in Basra Governorate, South Iraq


Iraq territory as a whole and south of Iraq in particular encountered rapid desertification and signs of severe land degradation in the last decades. Both natural and anthropogenic factors are responsible for the extent of desertification. Remote sensing data and image analysis tools were employed to identify, detect, and monitor desertification in Basra governorate. Different remote sensing indicators and image indices were applied in order to better identify the desertification development in the study area, including the Normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), Normalized Difference Water Index (NDWI), Salinity index (SI), Top Soil Grain Size Index (GSI) , Land Surface Temperature (LST) , Land Surface Soil Moisture (LSM), and Land Degradation Risk Index (LDI) which was used for the assessment of degradation severity .Three Landsat images, acquired in 1973, 1993, and 2013, were used to evaluate the potential of using remote sensing analysis in desertification monitoring. The approach applied in this study for evaluating this phenomenon was proven to be an effective tool for the recognition of areas at risk of desertification. The results indicated that the arid zone of Basra governorate encounters substantial changes in the environment, such as decreasing surface water, degradation of agricultural lands (as palm orchards and crops), and deterioration of marshlands. Additional changes include increased salinization with the creeping of sand dunes to agricultural areas, as well as the impacts of oil fields and other facilities.