Quantifying the Anthropogenic Signature in Drylands of Central Asia and Its Impact on Water Scarcity and Dust Emissions

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences


Humans have been changing the environment word-wide. Central Asia is a great example of a region that is strongly affected by human (anthropogenic) related activities. Political and economic transformations that have been occurring throughout the region have also been strongly affecting the environment. As a result, unprecedented changes have occurring in the land-use and -cover dynamics, as well as in water use and water availability for crops and human. Anthropogenic changes in Central Asia have significant consequences to the environment and human well-being. This chapter focuses on characterizing anthropogenic signatures in Central Asia, addressing their adverse consequences to the population and the environment of Central Asia. Sections address the anthropogenic dust emission associated with human activities, anthropogenic water use, and human growth. The anthropogenic dust emission is reconstructed by taking into account the changes in the land-cover and land use that have been caused by various human activities, including the drying up of the Aral Sea. The latter is a well-known human made disaster that has a profound impact on the entire region. Drastic changes have been occurring in the water use. The population dynamic causes additional problems. We investigated the rate of change in the intensity of the stable average lights product between 1991 and 2000. While the total percentage of lit land increased (3.1–3.4%) between 1991 and 2000, almost all lit areas in Kazakhstan declined in night light intensity. The only areas with increasing nightlights are some of the core urban areas, the Kenkiyak oil fields south of Aktobe and another oil field to the north of Kyzylorda.

Publication Title

Landscape Dynamics of Drylands across Greater Central Asia: People, Societies and Ecosystems