Fertile Crescent

Once considered the “cradle of civilization,” the Fertile Crescent’s place among the Tigris, Euphrates, and Nile rivers once led to plentiful riches. Now the depletion of those resources has led to strife in the Middle East.

The Fertile Crescent offered early civilizations abundant access to water. The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers regularly flooded the region, and the Nile River also runs through part of it. Irrigation and agriculture developed here based on the fertile soil found near these rivers.

Access to water also led to development of trade routes as travelers passed through the Fertile Crescent. This led to an exchange of culture and ideas, and advancements in the region as writing (cuneiform), math, and religion all soon developed there.

Over many centuries, environmental challenges have arisen in the Fertile Crescent. Turkey, Syria, and Iraq all depend on the waters flowing from the region. Increased population and urbanization demands have depleted the once-fertile soil. The construction of dams along the rivers has also lead to lower water output and quality. Much of the volume has declined to the point where nations utilizing the Euphrates River have to negotiate solutions to ensure each has access to needed water.

The environmental strain on the once fertile area has contributed to regional tensions, including the conflicts in Syria. Political issues have become entangled with geographical problems.

Source: Fertile Crescent
© 1996 - 2021 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved.

Back to top