Located in southern Ukraine is the largest sand area in the country. Known as Oleshky Sands, the oval-shaped area is 161 square-kilometers and is 15 km long at its widest. A semi-arid desert, Oleshky Sands is the second-largest expanse of sand in Europe. Dunes rising up to five meters in height are found in the area and encroachment by sand into the neighboring agricultural and populated areas is a problem. Groves of pine trees were planted that have had some stabilizing effect but sand migration continues to occur (study).
Researchers are not quite sure how the expanse of sand formed. Some speculate the sand formed from a dried riverbed due to the Dnieper River changing course (it now runs north of the Oleshky Sands). Overgrazing by sheep that were introduced to the area in the 18th century might have denuded the area, further contributing to the current conditions.
- Oleshky Sands, NASA