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What is soil degradation

Soil degradation is one of the most serious and widespread environmental problems on a global scale. Virtually all soils in the world have undergone transformations due to human or human action, which has diminished their quality and their ability to provide services, both to ourselves and to the ecosystems.

If you are concerned and want to know better what soil degradation is, do not miss this AgroCorrn article in which we give you the definition, the causes, the consequences and how we can avoid it.

Index
  1. What is soil degradation and types
  2. Causes of soil degradation
  3. Consequences of soil degradation
  4. How to avoid soil degradation

What is soil degradation and types

The degradation of the soil is a phenomenon where the ground of a certain place loses some of its most important properties, resulting in a decrease in its ability to provide ecosystem services and other services.

Before going deep into this process, it is advisable to do a review of what soil is . The soil is the first layer that we find on the earth’s surface. It is divided into layers called horizons, the first being a layer rich in organic matter, the second a layer characterized by falling leachates, and a third in transition to the bedrock. Soils are dynamic structures that are in constant formation and degradation.

Although it is an extremely thin layer in geological terms, the soil has great importance for life, since it is where a large part of plant species settle, most of the processes of conversion of organic into inorganic matter take place and many live of animal species, fungi and bacteria. In addition, soils are essential for agriculture or livestock.

Having seen the tremendous importance of soils , we can get an idea of ​​the problems that their degradation can generate. In addition, we recommend this other AgroCorrn post to learn about the different types of soil and their main characteristics .

Types of soil degradation

There are several types of soil degradation, although here we will see the most common:

  • Erosion: soil erosion always occurs naturally, due to different factors such as water or wind. We speak of an erosion problem when it is more intense than usual. In this case, the top layer of the soil, the most important for life, is greatly diminished or completely disappears. Learn more about what is soil erosion, its causes and consequences here.
  • Salinization: it occurs especially in coastal areas. It occurs when fresh underground waters near the sea are overexploited. When this current disappears, the sea percolates towards land, bathing it with salty water.
  • Pollution: in pollution we introduce some external element to the ecosystem that is also detrimental to the ecological balance. It can not only be produced by solid waste or polluted water discharges, but also by rains that carry harmful elements. Find out more about Soil Pollution in this other article.
  • Droughts: especially important from the perspective of climate change. Soils need a certain proportion of water in order to continue supporting life. When droughts occur, a large part of the species that live there are lost. Find out more about What is drought, its causes and consequences in this other post.

The extreme process of soil degradation is known as ” desertification “. In this case, a fertile land becomes a desert barren of life.

Causes of soil degradation

The causes of soil degradation are varied, but we can know the most important:

Waste and discharge management

When there is poor waste and disposal management (or even directly illegal), these components end up in the soil, leading to contamination. Spillages are especially harmful, since being liquid they spread quickly and over large areas of land. Waste such as heavy metals (such as lead) are very difficult to remove.

They can also aggravate other problems. For example, glass shards in arid climates (especially areas with herbaceous plants that dry out in summer) increase the risk of fires.

Logging, extensive agriculture and overgrazing

Logging , extensive agriculture (directly related to logging in many cases) and overgrazing all contribute to the removal of vegetation cover, the roots of which prevent soil erosion. It can affect large areas. Monoculture without rotation degrades the soil due to the depletion of some of the nutrients. They are aggravated by forest fires .

Fires and overexploitation of water resources

In those areas where the vegetation is not xerophilic or pyrophilic, the lack of water causes the death of the species that give rise to the surface horizon of the soil, impoverishing it. They also contribute to erosion.

Territory management

The management of the territory can be very harmful, which will depend largely on the specific characteristics of the territory. For example, large dams prevent the distribution of silts and clays with high organic content in areas adjacent to the river and modify the water profile of the territory.

Consequences of soil degradation

As we have seen, soil degradation has a multitude of causes that determine various problems. However, the consequences are in many cases common and are related to each other.

The main one is the loss of the ability to support life ( biological degradation ). Once the soil has been lost , it is very difficult for it to be able to serve as a support for the species that lived there. Likewise, it can generate millions of dollars in losses in agriculture (paradoxically, this factor is the cause and consequence of degradation).

The exact consequences will depend on the particular characteristics of the territory, the degree of degradation and whether techniques such as bioremediation are applied.

How to avoid soil degradation

Avoiding soil degradation involves adopting effective solutions to minimize fires, the impact of agriculture, livestock and civil works, and adequately manage waste.

As citizens, we can take care of our soils by demanding appropriate environmental policies from our authorities, being aware of our consumption and improving our own waste management (avoiding dumping and other waste).

If you want to read more articles similar to What is soil degradation , we recommend that you enter our category of Other environment .

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