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Differences in resource management affects drought vulnerability across the borders between Iraq, Syria, and Turkey

Lina Eklund, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University
Darcy Thompson, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University


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Much discussion has taken place exploring a potential connection between the 2007–2009 Fertile Crescent drought and Syria's uprising-turned civil war beginning in 2011. This study takes an integrated perspective on the 2007–2009 drought in the border region of Iraq, Syria, and Turkey by looking at the meteorological, agricultural, and socioeconomic aspects of drought vulnerability. Satellite-based precipitation and vegetation data help outline the drought’s spatial and temporal properties. In order to understand the context in which this drought happened, we also look at the trends in vegetation productivity between 2001 and 2015, as well as each country's different politico-economic factors affecting land and water resource management leading up to the drought. The findings show that, although the drought was severe in Syria, it was not the only country affected, nor necessarily the worst hit meteorologically. The agricultural drought lasted 2 yr in most affected areas on the Iraqi and Syrian sides, however, only 1 yr in the affected areas on the Turkish side. The vegetation trend analysis shows a striking difference between the Syrian and Turkish sides of the border. Turkey experienced a general improvement in land productivity between 2001 and 2015, whereas Iraq and Syria show a generally negative productivity trend. The fact that the decline in rainfall had different effects on crops in each of the three countries highlights the role government and private sector resource management and infrastructure play in reducing drought vulnerability. The findings of this study highlight the need for an integrated approach to research that investigates the interconnection between climate and conflict.

Key words

drought; fertile crescent; land degradation; resource management

Copyright © 2017 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087