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Soil salinity

Soil salinity is the salt content in the soil; the process of increasing the salt content is known as salination . Salt is a natural element of soils and water. Salination can be caused by natural processes such as mineral weathering or the gradual withdrawal of an ocean. It can also be caused by artificial processes such as irrigation.

Causes of soil salinity

Salt-affected soils that are caused by excess accumulation of salts, typically most pronounced at the soil surface. Salts can be transported to the soil surface by capillary transport from a salt laden water table and then accumulate due to evaporation. They can also be concentrated in soils due to human activity, for example the use of potassium as fertilizer, which can form sylvite, a naturally occurring salt. As soil salinity increases, salt effects can result in degradation of soils and vegetation. Salinization is a process that results from:

high levels of salt in the water. landscape features that allow salts to become mobile(movement of water table). climatic trends that favour accumulation. human activities such as land clearing, aquaculture activities and the salting of icy roads.

Effects of soil Sheet and Rill Erosion Sheet erosion is soil movement from raindrop splash resulting in the breakdown of soil surface structure and surface runoff; it occurs rather uniformly over the slope and may go unnoticed until most of the productive topsoil has been lost. Stream and Ditch Bank Erosion Poor construction, or inadequate maintenance, of surface drainage systems, uncontrolled livestock access, and cropping too close to both stream banks has led to bank erosion problems. The direct damages from bank erosion include: 1. The loss of productive farmland. 2. The undermining of structures such as bridges. 4

3. The washing out of lanes, roads and fence rows.

Regions affected

From the FAO/UNESCO Soil Map of the World the following salinized areas can be derived.
Region Area (106ha)



Near and Middle East


Asia and Far East


Latin America




North America


Europe The Problem of Soil and Land Degradation What is soil degradation? Soil degradation has two major components: the loss of soil through erosion and the loss of soil fertility. Both components lead to progressively lower crop yields, increased costs of production, and may end up in land abandonment and desertication. Soil tillage is the principle cause of degradation of cropped elds. Soil tillage causes rapid breakdown of soil organic matter - the key to soil fertility. What is a fertile soil?


A fertile soil allows the crop to produce close to the limit imposed by the environment (moisture and radiation), provided that the crop management is optimal. Soil fertility has three equally important components: soil chemical, physical and biological fertility. A reduction in any of the three components will generally result in lower yields. Soil organic matter is the key to all three components of soil fertility reduced soil organic matter leads to less chemical, physical and biological fertility.

What is soil chemical fertility and how can it be maintained and improved? Chemical soil fertility is the ability of a soil to provide all of the nutrients required by the crop. It is important to remember that chemical fertility depends on the availability of nutrients in the soil nutrients in unavailable forms or in soil zones not accessible to roots do not help produce crops. The availability of nutrients is normally greater when they are associated with organic matter. Soil chemical fertility can be enhanced by applying manure, fertilizer, compost and lime. What is physical soil fertility and how can it be maintained and improved? Physical soil fertility is the ability of the soil to enable the ow and storage of water and air into the soil, to permit root growth and to anchor the plants. To be fertile a soil needs abundant and interconnected pore space. Pore space generally depends on aggregates (crumbs) of soil particles held together by soil organic matter. Soil tillage breaks down aggregates, decomposes soil organic matter, pulverizes the soil, breaks pore continuity and forms hard pans which restrict water and air movement and root growth. On the soil surface, the powdered soil is more prone to sealing, crusting and erosion. Improving soil physical fertility involves reducing soil tillage to a minimum and increasing soil organic matter. How can the biological soil fertility be maintained and improved? Soil biological fertility refers to the quantity and diversity of soil fauna and ora present in the soil (earthworms, beetles, termites, fungi, bacteria, nematodes etc.). Biological activity is necessary to break down crop residues (including roots) into humus. Earthworms, termites and insects also transfer crop residues into the soil, increase soil porosity and pore continuity, and can help break down compacted layers. A constant food source is necessary to maintain soil fauna and ora: a bare soil results in low levels of biological activity. Tillage also disrupts the tunnels and habitats of organisms. The best way to increase soil biological activity in cropped soil is to get as close as possible to a natural system: stop soil tillage and leave plant residues as mulch on the surface. Looking at soil degradation. Is an easy way to see soil physical degradation is to take some small soil clods of about 1 cm diameter from a ploughed eld and from a virgin area nearby. Look at both soil samples and it will generally be easy to see the darker soil colour of the un-ploughed sample (higher organic matter content). Drop these clods carefully into a bowl of water and observe how the ploughed soil disintegrates while the unplugged soil stays intact (this works better with clay or loam soil than with sands that have very weak structure).P Dig up some soil with a spade in a ploughed eld and an unplugged area and look at the difference in number and diversity of fauna species. Generally you will see more organisms and more crumbs (aggregates) in the unplugged eld. How can soil degradation be avoided? The three biggest factors involved in soil degradation are a) soil tillage (breakdown of physical fertility); b) removal of crop residues (mainly by grazing or burning), and c) nutrient mining (not applying manure, compost or fertilizer in adequate amounts). The key therefore to avoid land and soil

degradation is to reduce soil tillage to a minimum, leave as many crop residues as possible, and replenish the nutrients removed by the crops.
Land is important

Our soil is a non-renewable resource. It takes thousands of years for rocks to weather into soils, and hundreds of years for rich organic matter to build up. Our welfare depends, to a large extent, on our soil and climate. Entire civilizations can rise and fall depending on their soil quality. This means that making the best use of our land and soils is very important for our wellbeing and survival. To use our land wisely we have to understand soil. Our land is home to many unique plants and animals. They have developed here over millions of years in isolation. But we have already lost many species and could lose more without careful management. About our land
The Waikato region covers 25,000km2 of land. Over the last 150 years people have made massive changes to this land forests have been cleared and wetlands drained. We havent always understood the effects of what we have done or managed these effects well. Problems include:

erosion fragmentation of rural land cultivation pugging and compaction excessive drainage Loss of habitat for native plants and animals.

Protecting the land

There are many things we can do to improve and maintain soils, such as: planting trees on hills and near streams careful use of fertilizers and pesticides retiring land from unsuitable uses or changing our land uses carefully managing stock reducing cultivation carefully managing water tables Carefully planning urban growth and subdivision. We can protect our native plants and animals by:

legally protecting remaining native vegetation fencing to keep stock out of bush remnants Controlling plant and animal pests.

Land degradation is a global problem, largely related to agricultural use. The major causes include:

Land clearance, such as clearcutting and deforestation Agricultural depletion of soil nutrients through poor farming practices Livestock including overgrazing and over drafting Inappropriate irrigation and over drafting Urban sprawl and commercial development Soil contamination Vehicle off-roading Quarrying of stone, sand, ore and minerals Increase in field size due to economies of scale, reducing shelter for wildlife, as hedgerows and copses disappear Exposure of naked soil after harvesting by heavy equipment Monoculture, destabilizing the local ecosystem Dumping of non-biodegradable trash, such as plastics1

Effects of Land Pollution

Effects on Climate

Land pollution can affect the general environment of the Earth. Land pollution leads to a depletion in forest covers. This is in turn going to affect the amount of rain. Less rain mean lesser vegetation. The effect of all different kinds of pollution will eventually lead to problems like acid rain, the greenhouse effect, and global warming. All of these problems have already begun, and need to be curbed before the situation runs out of control.

2. Extinction of Species
one of the major causes of concern is the extinction of species. Species are pushed towards endangerment and extinction primarily by two processes. Habitat fragmentation is the separating of the natural habitat of an organism, caused primarily by urban sprawl. In the last 500 years, the planet has lost about 869 species of plants and animals, because of human negligence that forced them into extinction. Habitat destruction, on the other hand, is when land clearing adversely affects animals, such that their natural habitat is lost. Both these actions can cause some species to go extinct and others to become invasive.

3. Bio magnification
Bio magnification is the process in which certain non-biodegradable substances continue to accumulating in the food chain (in one or more species). The most common example is of methyl mercury in fish and mercury in eagles. Not only does bio magnification put these particular species at risk, but all the species above and below it at risk, ultimately affecting the food pyramid.

4. Effects on Biodiversity
the extinction of certain species and bio magnification, are going to overthrow the balance of nature significantly. The main reason for this is disturbance created in the food chain. To give you a very simple example - on account of bio magnification of mercury in eagles, they might go extinct in the subsequent years. However, we know eagles prey on snakes, thereby increasing the number of this reptile if eagles were to go extinct.

Land and soil pollution Land and soil pollution refers to the detrimental state of affairs because of unhealthy and unsafe trash and toxicant dumping habits employed by humans. It has been mainly attributed to urbanization and industrialization, both of which destroy natural resources that are already present in order to build and become successful. The tearing down of God made things results in a lot of problems for example, in order to build a mall a company may go into a forest and cut down all the trees, it may extract minerals from another site and demolish mountains for material on one other and this will result in an imbalance. Such activities have been known to contribute to colossal problems such as global warming. Land pollution also entails poor agricultural practices which are not suitable for the land along with dumping of industrial wastes on sites.

Soils and land resources

The Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) has a significant role in addressing issues concerning soil and land resources in Queensland catchments. It is important when developing land management strategies to understand soil properties, as well as topographic and climate informationto achieve long-term and sustainable productivity of the land. Our soil and land mapping, modeling and monitoring programs are critical to understanding land productivity potential and land-degradation risk. DERM produces information to help inform land planning and management decisions and addresses issues such as:

prevention and remediation of land degradation salinity and acid sulfate soils management land suitability/capability assessment land resource assessment land management and monitoring soil carbon land-use change.

Discuss problems in land and soil use. ?

Answer: One problem is that the most fertile soil is often found in areas with great population density. Another problem with land and soil use is Soil Depletion. A third problem with land and soil use is Desertification.