Potential dust emissions from the southern Kalahari's dunelands



[1] The Southern Hemisphere shows relatively low levels of atmospheric dust concentrations. Dust concentrations could, however, increase as a result of losses of vegetation cover in the southern Kalahari. There is some evidence of an ongoing remobilization of stabilized dunefields in the southern Kalahari where dune crests with sparse vegetation cover are reactivated during dry and windy periods, a phenomenon that is predicted to intensify with increased land degradation, overgrazing, and droughts. Despite the potentially important climatic and biogeochemical implications of dust emissions from the Kalahari, it is still unclear whether the predicted remobilization of the Kalahari dunes could be associated with increased dust emissions from this region. The dependence of sediment fluxes and dust emissions on vegetation cover in the Kalahari dunelands remains poorly understood, which prevents a quantitative assessment of possible changes in aeolian activity in this region under different land use and land cover scenarios. In this study, we report the results of an aeolian sediment sampling campaign over a variety of land covers in the southern Kalahari. We use these results to quantify the potential rate of dust emissions and its dependence on vegetation cover and to make an estimate of dust fluxes from a portion of the southern Kalahari. The results show that the loss of vegetation could lead to substantial increases in dust emission and nutrient loss.