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Human activity as a driver of dust emissions: a synthesis of data from different locations.

James Hooper, Samuel Marx
GeoQuEST Research Centre - School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Wollongong, Australia

Aeolian dust has a profound impact on the earth’s biogeochemical cycles, climate and ability to support life, through processes such as the transport of nutrients, alteration of the Earth’s radiation budget, and incidences of air pollution. Recent research suggests that significant changes to this dust flux have resulted from human activities and land use modification. However, the exact anthropogenic contribution to dust flux and its change over time remains poorly constrained. Understanding and quantifying our role in dust production, both historically and today, is critical to building accurate climate models, maintaining and protecting adequate soil depth and fertility, and for accounting for nutrient/toxin inputs to dust recipient ecosystems. We present a comprehensive review of studies providing quantification of the anthropogenic component of wind erosion and dust flux around the globe. Despite the heterogeneity of methodologies employed, independent studies on every continent show an increase in dust production either commensurate with human activity and/or contemporaneous with the arrival / introduction of intensified land use and induced environmental change. While there are difficulties in assessing the role of natural climate variability, spatial sampling validity and the comparability of data available, the record shows compelling evidence that indicates, when taken as a whole, that dust production has more than doubled during the anthropocene.