Abstract

Geomorphologic evidence exists for repetitive drought conditions in the African Sahel; within this framework of broad climatic changes through time, the 1968- 1985 drought episodes are not abnormal. The impact of recent drought on the economies and environments of Sahelian nations has been substantial, however, and the recovery capabilities off severely damaged lands are not well known. Study of the geomorphology and surface processes across a portion of Mali provides some constraints on the responses of desert fringe fluvial systems to changing environmental conditions. Multi-temporal orbital image data were used in combination with field investigation to map drought-affected soils, and to document changes to both fluvial and aeolian processes across the region of study. A combination of statistical methods yields consistent evidence of net albedo increases associated with particular landforms and surface processes over a nine-year interval. Although aeolian processes are a significant transport mechanism for removal and redistribution of soil materials, both orbital data and field study indicate that fluvial erosion is responsible for much of the primary topsoil loss and landform modification in this portion of the Sahel.

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