Sand and dust storms (SDS) play an integral role in the Earth system but they also present a range of hazards to the environmental and economic sustainability of human society. These hazards are of considerable importance for residents of dryland environments and also affect people beyond drylands because wind erosion can occur in most environments and desert dust events often involve long-range transport over great distances (>1000 km). This paper makes an assessment of the scale of SDS impacts by totalling the countries affected using an appraisal of peer-reviewed published sources, arriving at a conservative estimate that 77% of all parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) are affected directly by SDS issues. We then present a synthesis of the environmental management techniques designed to mitigate SDS hazards for disaster risk reduction and review policy measures, both historical and contemporary, for SDS impact mitigation. Although many SDS hazards are well-known, the processes involved and their impacts are not all equally well-understood. Policies designed to mitigate the impacts of wind erosion in agricultural areas have been developed in certain parts of the world but policies designed to mitigate the wider impacts of SDS, including many that are transboundary, are geographically patchy and have a much shorter history. Further development and wider implementation of such policies is advocated because of the recent marked increase in wind erosion and associated dust storms in several parts of the world.
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