Arid Lands Conference participants

Dryland experts attended the first Arid Lands International Conference in Kazakhstan, co-organised by the University of Oxford and Al-Farabi Kazakh National University.

The University of Oxford and Al-Farabi Kazakh National University co-organised an international conference on 'Arid Lands: Environmental and social sustainability' in an attempt to understand the sustainability challenges facing Kazakhstan.

Held on 11-12 April 2018, it was the first conference to bring world-leading dryland experts to Kazakhstan, to discuss some of the environmental challenges facing the country and share new research methods and ideas for the study of drylands.

Topics covered at the conference included water in drylands, industrial and chemical pollution leftover from the Soviet era, as well as climate change's effect on agriculture and water supply.

Co-organiser Dr Troy Sternberg of the School of Geography and the Environment (University of Oxford) presented his research on his Drylands, using remote sensing and drought assessment techniques applied in Mongolia and Northern China.

He explains: "The world knows so little about Kazakhstan - such a giant part of the world, larger than western Europe, and containing the largest dry steppe region on the planet - so we decided to bring together dryland experts from around the world to share their academic methods and ideas for how to address key issues in the region.

"If we're able to start research in Kazakhstan, these methods and ideas might filter out to other Universities in the region, such as Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan."

The conference forms part of the Republic of Kazakhstan's work to improve engagement on sustainability issues, and is an event supported by UNESCO. Representatives from the Kazakh National University will go to the UN to deliver the findings from the conference in April.