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El Nino effects could help farmers.

Researchers in Holland say El Nino could be harnessed to recover land degraded by overgrazing and desertification.

Ecologists Marten Scheffer and Milena Holmgren of Wageningen University, The Netherlands, say some dry land can become fertile again by removing grazing animals when El Nino strikes -- about once every three to six years.

They say landowners could harness El Nino's power to shock land into recovery. If farmers remove animals for one season during El Nino, increased rainfall and reduced grazing could be enough to improve the land. Then the grazers can be gradually reintroduced.

The researchers are testing their ideas on arid lands in northern Chile.

Ecologist Mohan Wali of The Ohio State University in Columbus is less optimistic.

"You may only get a few weeks warning," he says. "What could you do in that time? We are talking about vast areas of land."

Mary Cablk, an ecologist at the Desert Research Institute in Nevada, agrees that implementing the strategy is a challenge.

"You have to go up against the cattle grazing industry," she says. "They are likely to be unwilling to remove grazers unless the land is so badly degraded that it is of no worth to them."
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Publication:Resource: Engineering & Technology for a Sustainable World
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2001
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