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Blowing sand and dust are increasingly common hazards associated with dryland economic development, largely because of disruption of desert soils by human activity (Cooke et al. 1982; Cooke & Doornkamp 1990). Blowing sand has long been recognized as a problem; it has clearly identifiable sources (blowouts, scour zones) and sinks (drifts, dunes) and is amenable to a range of management techniques once the problem has been assessed objectively (Cooke et al. 1982, 1993). The ‘dustification’ problem, by contrast, has come to prominence more recently. It is a more complex process involving greater transport distances, and results in a very wide range of adverse impacts including abrasion to paintwork, damage to machinery, contamination of houses, food and water, electrical short-circuits, disruption to radio signals, killing of plants, suffocation of livestock, the spreading of disease, disruption to transport, and general reduction in environmental quality and amenity. The different modes of transport – saltation for sand and suspension for dust – means that while defensive measures may be employed against sand, they are less effective in the case of dust where the emphasis must be placed on curbing the production of fine-grained sediment from identified source areas.

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